Four landmark Denver venues could soon be hopping with life again thanks to a California firm that for months has been eyeing the city’s disused buildings.
The Sports Castle, Denver Rock Drill, ReelWorks and the former Denver Post printing plant are all up for short-term leases — as little as a day or two — under their owners’ contracts with Non Plus Ultra, a Bay-area real estate firm that “activates” otherwise empty cultural and entertainment venues.
“There are lots of phenomenal companies out there that can do (event production) better than us,” said Jordan Langer, founder of the five-year-old company that also operates in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “Our niche is real estate, and bridging that gap between developers that have these spaces between projects, and the producers.”
If that sounds a bit dry for the arts world, keep in mind that these producers could be anyone from wedding and trade-show planners to comedy promoters and immersive-experience artists. While Non Plus Ultra works with the city on liability and permitting, it’s up to whomever rents the venues to transform them from brick-walled warehouses into nightclubs and fundraiser dance-floors.
Langer declined to share rates for each venue, but said his company takes 10% of revenues from the events — from which building owners also get a cut. On-site liquor and food sales contribute to the potentially lucrative set-ups, he said, and the company has just started to market the venues in earnest to potential clients.
“With our pivot to more music-oriented (shows), we thought having some help on the event side would be welcome,” said Andrew Feinstein, CEO and managing partner of Exdo Group Cos., which operates ReelWorks, in a Business Den story this week. Staff will continue working with existing clients to book music-oriented shows, he said, given that ReelWorks is the one venue (out of the four) that exists solely to book events, Business Den reported.
The influx of hundreds of thousands of square feet of short-term event space could result in even more Meow Wolf-style environments, which would have to compete with the company’s Sept. 17 opening of its new Convergence Station installation. Larger venues (1,000-person capacity and up) controlled by corporate promoters such as AEG Presents and Live Nation may also see mild competition as artists decide to play one-offs at some of these newly offered venues — particularly since a couple of them connect to the bustling River North Art District.
That could be a good thing, infusing pedestrian and retail traffic into areas that have desperately needed it over the past 18 months, Langer said.
One nightclub impresario, whose longtime properties bookend South Broadway’s Sports Castle, sees that as a win.
“It gives people added value to come to the neighborhood,” said Regas Christou, who owns and operates destination nightclubs on Capitol Hill such as The Church, Vinyl and Bar Standard. “I don’t know what their final plans for the venue are, but I’m in total support of this (short-term) plan.”
The Sports Castle, in particular, is being marketed as a venue that can host rooftop parties, while ReelWorks is already set up for trade show and nightclub-style events. Here’s the rundown:
One of Denver’s most instantly recognizable buildings for decades hosted Gart Sports’ (and then Sports Authority’s) downtown flagship location, but since 2016 has mostly been a backdrop for the coolest Spirt Halloween in the U.S. It was sold in late August to construction executive Tom McLagan, who wants to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places and eventually build a penthouse.
For now, however, the 1920s, Art Deco gem at 1000 Broadway is renting out 35,000 square feet of space amid its weirdly specific, potentially attractive interiors and stained glass windows, which were first conceived as a showroom for Chrysler cars.
Denver Post Printing Plant
In my 20 years of working for The Denver Post, I never visited this seemingly remote, 41-acre complex, which we called Fox Street. The building has been approved for various projects over the years, including a rezoning for 12-story residential towers, that have yet to be realized. (The Denver Post now prints at a facility at 5990 Washington St.)
In the meantime, the industrial space near the 41st and Fox RTD rail station offers a whopping 75,000 square feet of space in Denver’s fast-gentrifying Globeville neighborhood (that’s out of a total of 320,000 square feet inside the building). Insert quip here about printing money — or at least bird-cage liner material.
This time-tested space, formerly known as the Exdo Events Center, was for years one of the few major draws in the warehouse district, or “extended downtown,” now dubbed RiNo. Its 22,000 square feet of space was originally sectioned off in 1945 for a tinsmith manufacturing facility that made steel and aluminum film reels for Hollywood; the company, Goldberg Brothers, moved to Littleton and now makes sliding-door barn hardware.
Over the years it has hosted cannabis competitions, trade shows, drag nights, political rallies, nonprofit fundraisers, touring events and more. But lately, 1399 35th St. is probably best known for DJ nights and their dance-friendly ilk. The name change to ReelWorks only occurred in June to lure even more music acts. The venue features $250,000 of pandemic-era improvements like a 3-D projection mapping system, owner Feinstein has said.
Denver Rock Drill
This 110,000-square-foot venue — actually a collection of historic spaces — sits between RiNo and the Cole neighborhood. It still shows promise as an events venue or combined residential/retail space, as part of planned, ambitious, $250 million redevelopment of the area. But it has lately sat empty, acting as a space for experiential arts companies like Rainbow Militia and other occasional rentals.
Built in 1910 to produce pneumatic rock drills, Denver Rock Drill feels like a neighborhood unto itself, with labyrinthine corridors, ivy-covered brick walls and stained glass. Its recent lacquering of murals, and then graffiti, only adds to its Western wistfulness.
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