Lights up: Colfax arts district gets unique lighting to help set area apart


AURORA | Commuters, residents and business owners will see the stretch of East Colfax Avenue between Dallas and Florence streets in a new light starting next week.

Lights at the tops of some buildings on East Colfax Avenue are seen Sept. 10. Businesses and theaters along the avenue recently installed the lights and will be holding a ceremony Sept. 15 during the art walk to celebrate their installation. (Aaron Cole/Staff)

Official word came in this week that the monthly art walk in the Aurora Arts District slated for Sept. 14 will include the formal launch of a new lighting system, formally dubbed “Spotlight Aurora,” on the exteriors of buildings along the strip. The scheme of LED lights designed by artist Susan Cooper will be featured on several businesses along Colfax, and district officials hope the aesthetic touch will help lend the area a distinct identity and appeal.

“One of the reasons the lighting project was chosen is that we feel that it showcases the district,” said Moira Dungan, a senior development project manager with the city. “When you drive through that part of Colfax, you’re going to feel like you’re entering and exiting something.”

Community Development Block Grants paid for the $200,000 project. According to Dungan, the lighting system will feature a combination of stringed lights and glass globes running along the tops of the buildings in the area.

“It’s along the 9700, 9800 and 9900 blocks, from Pacific Pawn all the way up to Peoples Rent-to-Own,” Dungan said. “Along the tops of the buildings, the facing tops, there’s one long strip of light. It can be programmed for various colors. In addition to that, there are globes that are 14 inches in diameter, they will all be lit up as well and turn on and off to simulate movement.”

The kickoff ceremony, slated for 7 p.m. at 9898 East Colfax Ave., will include a formal dedication by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan.

“There were two things that I wanted to do. One was to highlight the rooftops. They have an original feel to them, those pediments … I really like that old line. It’s unique in this area to see something like that,” said Susan Cooper, whose past projects include a smaller light display in the same neighborhood. “Also, they’re trying to create an arts community … I wanted some kind of unity. The best way to do it I could think of was by having light that talks to each other … I’ve done art projects before, but not on this scale.”

According to Cornerstone Equity chief Doug Adams, local business owners were included in the planning process behind the new lighting system.

“I think every business owner is excited. We got buy in from every owner,” said Adams, who manages several properties in the area. The Vintage Theatre company is currently buying their building at 1468 Dayton St. from Cornerstone. “What we’re trying to do is identify this whole project, this whole area.”

The push to create a definite sense of identity and personality has been a goal of business owners and artists since the push to create an arts district formally launched about 12 years ago.

“Our department has been working in north Aurora. It was established as an urban renewal area in 2000,” Dungan said, adding that projects like affordable housing units and streetscape renovations have all come as a part of that designation. “That was all part of a very large initiative — the creation of an urban renewal area to address blight.

“That was all part of the structural financing,” she added.

While the progress in the area has come in fits and starts, the effort has included the launch of galleries like the Red Delicious Press and the space at 1400 Dallas Street, a city-owned facility that offers studio space and classrooms.

“We really believe one of our next steps is having a presence down here,” said Aurora Arts District President Crystal Gardner, the owner of House of Flowers. “We’re trying to find spaces for artists until the arts district can do it on their own. This is a step in that direction.”

According to Dungan, the coming year will also see the addition of signs along the strip that detail parking spaces and include the formal brand of Aurora Art District.

“People will know how to get off Colfax and park in some of the public lots down there,” Dungan said. “I’m very excited. This is a big step in the right direction.”


Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at [email protected] or 720-449-9707