When asked about the kind of year 40 West Arts and West Colfax had, Bill Marino, executive director of the Lakewood West Colfax Business Improvement District, and board chair of 40 West Arts, pauses, …
When asked about the kind of year 40 West Arts and West Colfax had, Bill Marino, executive director of the Lakewood West Colfax Business Improvement District, and board chair of 40 West Arts, pauses, as if to stop an avalanche of answers from coming all at once.
“Sometimes I think back to when we started, and wonder if all this really happened,” he said with a grin. “But it really did happen. The community has changed forever.”
In 2017, the art district, and the corridor as a whole, had a banner year, with new businesses moving in and an increase in events and attendance. According to Marino, the West Colfax Community Association, which promotes interest and investment in the corridor, has its best year yet, with more people and businesses getting involved than ever before.
The exciting thing is many of those new members are creative businesses and galleries, which boost the profile of both the community association and business improvement district, and 40 West.
The 40 West district is a nonprofit organization focused highlighting arts and creative industries around Lakewood’s West Colfax corridor surrounding the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. The organization is made up of artists, residents, business owners and students who are invested in the arts and bettering the community.
Reed Art, which has national clients like photographer John Fielder, moved to the former location of the Avalanche Harley-Davidson at 8000 W. Colfax Ave. The NEXT Gallery, which also serves as an artist cooperative, moved to West Colfax in late April, and Pirate: Contemporary Art moved in June. Both NEXT and Pirate had been located on Navajo Street in Denver before coming to Lakewood.
These moves are a result of increased costs in the Denver area, as well as the efforts of West Colfax organizations to make the avenue an inviting place for businesses. And these efforts aren’t just aimed at creative businesses, either.
“The presence of 40 West Arts was hard to miss, even back in 2014 when we had the Lamar Station Plaza under contract and completed the purchase,” wrote Tom Yockey, president of Broad Street Realty, in an email interview. Lamar Station Plaza is home to Casa Bonita, Arc Thrift Store, and WestFax Brewing. “Having owned and redeveloped real estate nationally, I was keenly aware of how an active arts community can have a positive impact on real estate redevelopment.”
One of the district’s closest and most long-standing partners is the City of Lakewood, which has also been looking for opportunities to bring in more businesses.
“The great thing about these organizations is how they promote each other,” said Vanessa Zarate, economic development specialist with the city. “Partly because of that, we saw Ross open in Lamar Station, and Dutch Brothers coffee is coming as well.”
40 West’s reputation continues to grow on a state level. It became the first state-certified creative district to be granted eligibility for Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) funding. Marino said receiving the go ahead to apply for funding from the SCFD is the result of years of preparation and study, and in early 2018, the organization will make its official funding application.
“There’s still a lot to do, and a lot to be excited about in 2018,” he said. “In 2018, we hope to see more restaurants open, as well as more entertainment destinations, as well as infrastructure like wayfinding and signage.”
The growth and development discussion has been the hottest topic for months, but along West Colfax, more investment and smart development is considered a good thing by corridor investors.
“Intelligent growth will provide the demand for new retail and other businesses that make for a desirable and vibrant community,” Yockey said. “The presence and growth of the arts are not the only factor attracting people to the corridor, to either visit or live, but arts along with light rail, housing opportunities, and new retail stores will help drive the success of local businesses.”