Arkins Park and Promenade

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Project Features

Grassroots Engagement 
The RiNo Art District touches four historic neighborhoods of color, Cole, Globeville, Five Points, and Elyria Swansea, all of which were identified as “high priority” areas in need of park space. Engagement efforts for the master plan took a grassroots approach, embedding the public engagement consultant in the neighborhoods for weeks at a time to talk to the people that lived there and understand their needs and desires for the park. Acknowledging that all ages are important project constituents, individuals from local schools, community centers, youth, senior, and arts and culture facilities were directly engaged. As part of a directed curriculum and workshops, K-12 students used drawing and writing exercises to uncover their feelings, aspirations, and ideas. The students learn community outreach strategies, preparing them to become community engagement ambassadors for the Project. The idea to put a library on the site was an idea from a student who said libraries were a place she felt safe.

An Experience for All

  • The 16-foot elevated walkway is wheelchair accessible allowing all ages and abilities to access views of the river from the treetops.
  • ADA access to all buildings and throughout the park
  • Picnic tables allow for accessible access.

ArtPark Program 
The RiNo Art District leases and manages the “ArtPark” which accommodates and hosts:

  • A much-needed branch public library.
  • A free public art gallery.
  • Free events and programming. Events this summer include: All Ages Storytime, Author Talk with Mayukh Sen Watch Party, Pride Crown Making, and Drop-In Craft Club.
  • The future heritage food incubator supports immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs in the Denver community.
  • Eight subsidized art studio spaces for local artists.
  • The spaces and programs put money back into the community by supporting local artists and community-based non-profits. Not only does the Project give residents the park they asked for, but it’s a park that pays it forward.


The rehabilitation of infrastructure along the South Platte River offered a framework for Arkins Park & Promenade, a critical new urban park in Denver’s emerging RiNo Art District. Before construction, the site held a vehicle service center and a crumbling road; however, it was surrounded by opportunities — the river as a place-making focal point, ongoing adjacent development, and the district’s artistic culture.

Arkins is more than a park to fit the site, it is bespoke to its people. A thorough grassroots public outreach revealed their desire to transform the buildings, promote consistent programming, deliver water quality measures, and reflect the neighborhood’s gritty, industrial character. To achieve this diversity of needs, the team balanced multiple competing visions within the design: shaggy riparian meets clean modern, rugged industrial meets elegant resilience, inspiring play meets stormwater functionality.  Cardinal among these priorities was always respect. Respect the river, respect the .

The Arkins Project is a work of reinvention asking and answering the question: what does it mean to build an urban park.


Purpose and Approach

The City of Denver and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) identified the River North (RiNo) district near Downtown Denver as an area in need of green space. TPL acquired a 2-acre vehicle service site fronting the South Platte River and conveyed it to the Denver Parks and Recreation Department. That parcel, combined with adjacent donated public properties and a decommissioned industrial road, is now the 6.6-acre Arkins Park & Promenade (The Project).

The city envisioned the park as a direct reflection of the up-and-coming, trendy arts district: intimate, creative, and iconic. The park would highlight the arts, culture, and sustainability of the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as enhance the ecology of the river corridor in new and creative ways. When asked, the community made it clear they wanted green space, activities for all ages, and a home for artists that reflected the industrial history of the neighborhood. As the project evolved, they identified additional specific needs: they wanted a local resource that promotes the arts, creates a safe space for kids, propels local business, and invites a wide range of people to innovate, learn, and play. Arkins Park & Promenade addresses all of those wishes and more.


The Landscape Architect 1) served as the lead consultant guiding a multidisciplinary team including architects, civil and structural engineers, electrical and lighting engineers, and irrigation and public involvement consultants. This team developed the master plan, produced the design documents, and provided construction observation services to see the Project vision come into fruition; 2) facilitated public outreach events and stakeholder meetings and collaborated with the public outreach consultant who engaged directly with the neighborhood to develop key themes and recommendations; and 3) directed the development of strategies and design for integrating green infrastructure, for both on- and off-site runoff, into park spaces –a priority for the Project.

The Architect led the design of the buildings (and select deconstruction), the elevated walkway, and custom furniture.


RiNo was flagged as a “High Priority” area for green space by “‘Denver’s Gameplan for a Healthy City.”  Plenty of studies correlate the presence and use of park spaces to increased vigor, the reduction of obesity, a boost in social skills, and better overall health within a community. The Project offers an abundance of elements aimed at improving the health of the neighborhood:  playground amenities include balance beams and jumping pads; a large green lawn provides space for organized play; a wheelchair accessible walkway, zig-zags visitors 16-feet off the ground to view the river below from the treetops; a promenade provides a vehicle-free zone for bikers and pedestrians; and free programming activates the space throughout the day. These elements bring people in and turn a great option into a compelling invitation to use the space. The location, the amenities, and the consistency of the programming incentivize first-time and return visits, thereby increasing the likelihood of that physical activity and its benefits.

Physical health must not eclipse the mental and spiritual health of our communities. The project, with its access to nature, attends to anxiety; with its new library, offers safe spaces and community safety nets; and with its art production, catalyzes learning, expression, and connection.

Special Factors

THE RIVER – The project addresses the river by introducing water quality and stormwater management measures along a quarter-mile stretch of riparian area. Moreover, it adds water quality testing mechanisms.  But the site does more than clean water, it reintroduces a community to the river and our responsibility to it. Stormwater features like runnels, raingardens, and filtration, are not hidden, but conspicuous and decorated.  “Course, a public art installation of symbolic columns, punctuates the promenade and describes water’s journey through the city.

THE REHABILITATED – It was the City’s original intent to demolish the buildings on site; however, the community wanted them to stay. The RiNo Art District stepped in and became responsible for the renovation, build-out, fundraising, activation, and free programming of the “RiNo ArtPark” buildings. Today, what was a vehicle maintenance bay, is now a porous plaza loosely enclosed within the vestigial remains of the building.

THE PROMENADE – The City swapped a little-used roadway parallel to the river for biking or walking and added valuable multimodal connections to an area lacking them thereby contributing to the critical mass of the neighborhood’s transit options. Remnants of the road remain, with asphalt selectively removed to provide space for water quality, plantings, play, seating, and gathering. A 16-foot high, 400-foot long, ADA accessible elevated walkway (envisioned by the landscape architect and designed by the architect) offers views up and down the river corridor from the vantage of the trees.

FINANCIAL – The Project resulted from a series of first-of-their-kind public, nonprofit, and private partnerships. Denver Parks & Recreation, Denver Public Library, the RiNo Art District, Focus Points Family Resource Center, and the Redline Contemporary Art Center are just some of the entities responsible. With so many groups invested in the success of the park, the space accomplished a “victory of the commons” with stable, diverse funding.

Environmental Sensitivity and Sustainability

Not only does the Project manage water within its boundaries, it also treats neighborhood runoff entering the park. The design consists of tiered water quality basins with selective planting, intentionally mixed soils for water polishing, and large areas of permeable pavers (15,900 sf). To reduce unnecessary heavy grading along the promenade, all the water quality collection points for runoff replaced pre-existing street inlets. In total, the project added over 16,900 sf of water quality planting areas which have a water quality capture volume of 2,600 cf. The result is a cleaner river, not only for Denver, but for all of those who depend on the South Platte River downstream.

Water was not the only resource taken into consideration. The Project resulted in a massive reduction in hardscape on the site which both reduced the heat island effect in the area and opened space for more natural areas. The Project now acts as a node for more than bikers; it’s a massing of native plants with greater diversity and productivity than the upland riverbank has seen in quite some time. The reintroduction of appropriate plant species also reduces irrigation demands, minimizes maintenance, and supports the important ecosystems along the river.

Finally, the designers selected environmentally conscious building materials when feasible. This includes benches of recycled plastic bottles; an elevated walkway of sustainably sourced lumber that used no concrete for its structure; and the reuse of materials on or near the site. And of course, the rehabilitation of the existing buildings on site rather than building new structures reduced total environmental impact significantly.


In recent years, RiNo buzzed with energy.  Impromptu art studios popped up in the neighborhood. Murals adorned everything from mailboxes to six-story apartments.  Even new housing could not accommodate the rush of artists, professionals, and business owners. But all this activity had no locus in which to congregate.

Arkins Park is more than a static place to meet. From its inception, it rode a wave of inspiration: a dozen groups, with overlapping dreams, shaped the vision of what this new park could be. Thousands of individuals used the polls, questionnaires, workshops, and focus groups to share their preferences and passions.  The result is a space where numerous simultaneous benefits play out every day – and look good doing it. Dogs are walked and concerts performed, community yoga taught, art classes held, stormwater cleaned, and pollinators provided for.

Arkins Park is where that creative buzz goes to thrive. It’s where families can play, explore, and learn. It’s where artists can innovate and perform. It’s where new perspectives are the norm – whether watching a performance, catching insects, or wheeling up the walkway.  It’s the evolution of a grossly underutilized riverfront plot into a space that not only inspires individuals, it empowers a community.

Plant List


  • Aesculus flava – Yellow Buckeye
  • Amelanchier X Grandiflora `Autumn Brilliance` – `Autumn Brilliance` Serviceberry
  • Carpinus betulus – European Hornbeam
  • Catalpa speciosa – Northern Catalpa
  • Celtis occidentalis – Common Hackberry
  • Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud
  • Corylus colurna – Turkish Filbert
  • Gleditsia triacanthos inermis `Sunburst` – Sunburst Locust
  • Gleditsia triacanthos `Imperial` – Imperial Honeylocust
  • Gymnocladus dioica `Espresso` – Kentucky Coffeetree
  • Maackia amurensis – Amur Maackia
  • Malus X `Prairie Rose` – Prairie Rose Crabapple
  • Malus X `Spring Snow` – Spring Snow Crab Apple
  • Platanus X Acerifolia – London Plane Tree
  • Populus deltoides Monilifera – Plains Cottonwood
  • Populus X Acuminata – Lanceleaf Poplar
  • Quercus bicolor – Swamp White Oak
  • Quercus buckleyi – Buckley (Texas Red) Oak
  • Quercus muehlenbergii – Chinkapin Oak
  • Syringa reticulata – Japanese Tree Lilac
  • Ulmus X `Morton Accolade` Tm – Elm


  • Chamaebatiaria millefolium – Fernbush
  • Chrysothamnus nauseosus nauceosus – Dwarf Blue Rabbitbrush
  • Cornus sericea `Kelseyi` – Kelseyi Dogwood
  • Diervilla lonicera – Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle
  • Mahonia repens – Creeping Mahonia
  • Mahonia repens Darkstar – Purple Creeping Mahonia
  • Pennisetum orientale `Karley Rose` – Karley Rose Fountain Grass
  • Phlox subulata `White Delight` – White Delight Moss Phlox
  • Rosa woodsii – Woods Rose
  • Solidago rugosa `Fireworks` – Fireworks Goldenrod
  • Symphoricarpos oreophilus – Mountain Snowberry


  • Bouteloua gracilis `Blonde Ambition` – Blue Grama
  • Panicum virgatum – Switch Grass
  • Panicum virgatum `Cheyenne Sky` – Cheyenne Sky Switch Grass
  • Panicum virgatum `Heavy Metal` – Blue Switch Grass
  • Panicum virgatum `Shenandoah` – Shenandoah Red Switch Grass
  • Schizachyrium scoparium `Standing Ovation` – Little Bluestem Grass


  • Agastache cana `Sonoran Sunset` – Sonoran Sunset Hyssop
  • Ceratostigma plumbaginoides – Dwarf Plumbago
  • Engelmannia peristenia – Engelmann`S Daisy
  • Fallugia paradoxa – Apache Plume
  • Geum triflorum – Prairie Smoke
  • Lonicera sempervirens `Magnifica` – Trumpet Honeysuckle
  • Penstemon pinifolius `P0195` – Steppesunstm Sunset Glow Penstemon
  • Tradescantia occidentalis – Western Blue Spiderwort

Documents and Media

Planning Docs (if applicable):