Civic Center Park

Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado

In the late 1880's, one stubborn Denver farmer still ran his livestock in a pasture near the corner of Broadway and Colfax. Such real estate, even then, was a mighty expensive place to graze cattle. Denverites jokingly called it the "Million Dollar Pasture". Yesterday's cow pasture is today's Civic Center!


Civic Center Park is a neighborhood and park in Denver, Colorado. The area is known as the center of the civic life in the city, with numerous institutions of arts, government, and culture as well as numerous festivals, parades, and protests throughout the year. The park is home to many fountains, statues, and formal gardens, and includes a Greek amphitheater, a war memorial, and the Voorhees Memorial Seal Pond. It is well known for its symmetrical Neoclassical design.



Civic Center Park is also known throughout the state as the rendezvous for the largest and most important cultural and civic events. Being at the center of the state and local government institutions, Civic Center Park has become the place for political statement for various groups and individuals representing a variety of causes. It was Civic Center Park where the public held a vigil for the victims of Columbine High School massacre, and 9/11. In 1990 and 1991, Civic Center Park was the location of the CART Grand Prix of Denver. Former presidential candidate and Denver native John Kerry made a 2004 campaign stop at Civic Center, and 2008 Democratic nominee Barack Obama gave a speech there on October 26, 2008 to more than 120,000 supporters


Civic Center Park is also the location for many annual events. These include:
  • January - The City and County Building has a Christmas lights display up until the National Western Stock Show ends in mid January.
  • March - Civic Center Park is at the end of one of the longest St. Patrick's Day parades in the nation.
  • April - An annual pro-cannabis rally/ cannabis culture gathering is held in Civic Center Park every year on April 20th, otherwise known as 4/20.
  • May - The largest Cinco de Mayo festival in the nation.
  • June- People's Fair, a bohemian festival with various music, art, political booths, and other happenings.  PrideFest, the annual gay pride festival is held at Civic Center, which is also the endpoint of the parade.
  • Summer- There are various theatre and music events held throughout the summer at the Greek amphitheater.
  • September- A Taste of Colorado is a food and music festival held during Labor Day weekend at the park.
  • October- The park is the end point for a Columbus Day parade that often brings protests from American Indian groups.
  • December- The Parade of Lights ends at the City and County Building which has holiday lights from the beginning of the parade until the National Western Stock Show.
City and County Building
The Civic Center Conservancy
     Park conservancies are an outgrowth of private citizens wanting to do more for public spaces than government can do on its own. Gaining steam across the U.S. over the past three decades, conservancies of varying sizes and models have been established out of concern for parks that government entities had neither the capacity nor the resources to maintain, program or enhance adequately. Conservancies are private, non-profit, park-benefit organizations that partner with government but raise money independently to invest in parks under action plans mutually agreed upon with their government partners. Key examples include the Central Park Conservancy, the Battery Park Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

     Formed in 2004 by a group of private citizens passionate about revitalizing Civic Center Park, the Civic Center Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with the City and County of Denver to restore, enhance and activate Denver’s historic Civic Center. The Conservancy's efforts focus around the following four areas: advocacy for park needs and infrastructure improvements; events and programming to activate Civic Center; public awareness and engagement; and fundraising for capital improvements, activities and initiatives to support and revitalize the park. The Conservancy has a formal cooperative agreement with the City and County of Denver designating it as the official fundraising vehicle for Civic Center Park.

Key accomplishments to date include:
  • Played key role in creation of 2005 Civic Center Park Master Plan, identifying priorities for infrastructure improvements, amenities and enhanced connectivity.
  • Advocated for Civic Center’s inclusion in 2007 Better Denver bond initiative. Denver voters approved $9.4+ million to restore the Greek Theater, Voorhies Memorial and Broadway Terrace.  Phase I completed in 2010; phase II completed in 2011.  The Civic Center Conservancy Design Committee provided input on the Broadway Terrace and nearby Bannock Street improvements.
  • Partnered with Denver Parks and Recreation and Mundus Bishop Design to inform design guidelines for restoration projects and new park features; adopted by Denver Landmark Commission in 2009.
  • Partnered with Downtown Denver Partnership to expand BID maintenance and ambassadorial services into Civic Center in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  The services – focusing on litter pickup, graffiti removal and spot pressure washing – are in addition to the daily services already provided by Denver Parks and Recreation.
  • Hosted variety of arts and cultural programs to activate the park and engage the public in its future, including the weekly summer Civic Center EATS Outdoor Café entering its sixth year in 2011, and the 2010 launch of the annual Civic Center SOUNDS Independence Eve Celebration featuring a free Colorado Symphony concert and fireworks/light display; and the Civic Center Bike-In Movie Series, which launched in summer 2011. 
     The Civic Center Conservancy is currently working to help the City develop and implement a long-term vision for the McNichol’s Building and create a Centennial Campaign plan to spur private investment in Civic Center enhancements, amenities and programming.

     In May 2011, the Civic Center Conservancy was honored with a Downtown Denver Award for contributing to the vibrancy of downtown Denver.  In November 2011, the national City Parks Alliance designated Civic Center as a "Frontline Park," recognizing it as a "leading example of urban parks creating economic, environmental and social capital through innovative partnerships."

Civic Center at Night, 1940s


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