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Be A Good Neighbor: River North Art District Voluntary Standards for Developers & Special Projects

The River North Art District is one of the closest neighborhoods in proximity to Downtown Denver. The combination of the location and the creative personality of the neighborhood are leading to increasing development. Several projects are under construction, others are in the process of being designed and RiNo welcomes the new opportunities.

As advocates for the neighborhood and its residents, the River North Art District strongly encourages developers to consider the personality of RiNo as you move forward with any building project. RiNo is, in the words of Mark Stern of the University of Pennsylvania, a "Natural Cultural District."

Professor Stern describes the situation in this way:

"Analytically, these districts are of interest because of density's side-effects. Economic developers note that clusters encourage innovation and creativity - a spur to cultural production. At the same time, a cluster of cultural assets often pushes a neighborhood to a regeneration tipping-point, attracting new services and residents.

While the arts are commerce, they revitalize cities not through their bottom-line but through their social role. The arts build ties that bind - neighbor-to-neighbor and community-to-community. It is these social networks that translate cultural vitality into economic dynamism." -Mark Stern


Without the creative people who help to make the neighborhood vital, your development risks losing much of its value and certainly much of its charm. For this reason, we have developed a set of RiNo Voluntary Standards for Developers. As the name implies, these are voluntary standards. We can't force you to adopt them. Still, we believe that following these standards will create a stronger neighborhood in the long run.

Have any questions? Contact us. We look forward to helping you solve your creative problems!

As incentive to developers and special projects to implement these standards we are offering two sponsorship opportunities to promote your project.

1. We will put your logo in the FEED THE RINO section on our monthly online newsletter the RiNo Crow that is distributed to over 5,000 people each month.

2. You will also be given our "RiNo Approved!" logo to use on your web site, mailers and publicity.

To qualify for this special sponsorship all you need to do is participate in four of the Voluntary Standards listed below.


1. 1% for Art


Consider including an investment in art in the design and construction of your projects. The City of Denver maintains a policy that 1% of any capital improvement project undertaken by the city be set aside for art. As part of our development standards, we encourage developers to include money specifically for the inclusion of site-specific creative components.

2. Buy Local

RiNo includes over 100 creative businesses, offering a wide variety of services. Consider contracting with one of these businesses for your project; you'll engender goodwill, support the local economy, get some local personality, all while gaining access to the heart of Denver's Creative Class. Buy some local art for your new building, hire a graphic designer or architect from the neighborhood, consider custom design steel, glass, or wood from a local artisan.

3. Provide a Stipend when Exhibiting an Artist

The River North Art District is often contacted by developers in the area with opportunities for RiNo artists to exhibit their work in their new projects. We find this to be a great opportunity to connect with new developments and people that are moving into the neighborhood.

As advocates for artists; RiNo recommends that developers pay the artists for their time by allotting for a stipend for use of this loaned artwork. Artists are trying to make a living like everyone and there is value in what they do.

A typical suggested stipend is 10% of the value of the artwork being shown. For example, if the work of art is $2000, the artist is paid $200 for the usage of the work. This helps the artist defer costs of transport, time spent installing and wear & tear on the work.

4. Create Artists Space


As you design your project, take the personality of the neighborhood into account. Consider including artist friendly studios, retail, or mixed use spaces. If you have to dedicate a portion of your project to affordable housing, consider building affordable live/work spaces for artists. You'll help maintain the creative edge that defines this neighborhood and makes it unique.

5. Invest in the Environment

River North's life blood is the Platte River that runs through the neighborhood. We hope that everyone in the area will begin to respect this great asset to the community. We hope that existing and new businesses will work towards cleaning up the area, which has been dubbed Denver's most polluted Zip Code. RiNo supports the plan to create a “river district” in the area being discussed by the city and developers. 

Reuse of exsisting buildings: Another one of our goals is to keep the industrial nature and artistic personality of the district. We actively reccommend approaching projects in the district by keeping in mind the exsisting architecture. We encourage reuse and revitalization of the historic buildings in the district rather than tearing them down. These practices have made our district special and unique and continue to draw accolades both regionally, nationally and internationally.

See this recent study on the South Platte Corridor.

6. Build LEED

We also hope that developers that build in the area will follow LEED guidelines when approaching new construction in the neighborhood. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED addresses all building types and emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality. Visit usgbc.org for more information.

Example: Sustainable methods include using local materials, hiring local artists and contractors to minimize fuel consumption and exhaust pollution during transport.

7. Engage the Community


Look for opportunities to engage the community in the planning, design, and development of your project. Artists, designers, and other creative people are by nature collaborative and engaged in their neighborhood; use the community as a resource.

Of course, there are a multitude of issues you have to consider while planning your development. Our goal is to advocate for the strongest possible neighborhood, so that your project will be successful in both the short and long term. We believe that by following these guidelines our neighborhood can grow and change while continuing to develop the creative personality that makes it unique and worthwhile.