BUSINESS NEWS: Are Big Property Tax Bills Painting Denver Arts Districts Into a Corner?

By Susan Froyd, Westword | Potter Macy Dorf settled into his ceramics studio at 747 Santa Fe Drive nearly forty years ago, long before the area was an official arts district, even before Denver conceived of the idea of official arts districts. In 2001 he purchased the building for $351,000 that today houses Artists on Santa Fe Gallery and Studios, landlord to dozens of artists who rent studios there.

Other art concerns were beginning to pop up along Santa Fe at the time, like the well-regarded Sandy Carson Gallery and 910 Arts. “All of a sudden a group decided we should have an art district,” remembers Dorf. “And I did the dumbest thing in the world: I agreed to become president of the new art district in 2003.”

Although he stepped down after two years, the Art District on Santa Fe persevered. Sixteen years later, it’s grown into one of Denver’s most successful arts districts — a dense and walkable corridor of galleries, cultural centers, studios, small businesses and eateries that comes alive with art-walkers every First Friday.

But behind that successful veneer, many of the ADSF’s 100 members, about a third of them galleries and artists, are suffering growing pains. Like so many other once-borderline neighborhoods pioneered by artists before corporate entities moved in to redevelop them, the arty heart of the La Alma/Lincoln Park business district could be a victim of its own success.

Rents are going up, making it impossible for some galleries with small budgets to stay in their current spaces.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the “Thrills” editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.

[Thank you to Alex Teitz,, for contributing this article.]

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