National Western Center Master Plan Update

The draft of the National Western Center Master Plan was released on December 18, 2014 in a press conference presided over by many local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock. The document was immediately open to the public for comments, corrections, additions, or possible revision prior to its adoption by the Planning Board at the City and County of Denver (expected in February) and approval from City Council (expected in March). The draft Master Plan is the result of a concerted effort to imagine a new future for the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) site just north of downtown near the confluence of Brighton Blvd. and I-70. A few years ago this plan for a re-imagined center for the NWSS seemed unlikely in Denver. 2011 brought news that the NWSS was destined to move to Aurora. By 2012, however, the reality was that the NWSS was going to remain in the location where the Stock Show began way back in 1906.

What followed was a number of committees and resources dedicated to a large-scale planning effort. One such committee was the National Western Citizen’s Advisory Committee (NWCAC), made up primarily of residents and organizations located in the neighboring communities around the NWSS. Historic Denver has been honored with a place on this committee and since its first meeting in October of 2013, we have attended to listen to the community, monitor the process, and advocate for the historic assets still located on the site. Some of those historic assets include the original 1909 Stadium Arena, the series of structures that make up the Denver Union Stock Yard/Livestock Exchange Building (1898, 1916, and 1919), the Western Stock Show Association/Armour Administration Building (1917), and the 1952 Denver Coliseum. There are also historic site features of note such as the Armour Water Tower, the “In the Yards” sign and original Stock Yard pens, as well as the Animal Transport Bridge which spans the South Platte River. These elements were identified, in part, because of a National Western Historic Preservation Study published in August of last year. A portion of this study is included as an appendix to the draft Master Plan.

The Historic Preservation Study recommended a National Register of Historic Places district listing for the Stock Show site. Historic Denver agrees that a district listing is appropriate and would recognize the unique historical development of the site, create an opportunity to better understand the site’s cultural history, provide important site documentation, and open many site assets to incentive programs such as the federal historic preservation tax credit. We also recommend an alternative approach that includes individual National Register listings for key buildings, as well as designating some (if not all) key buildings as local landmarks while additionally retaining and incorporating the important site features in to the wider Master Plan.

The draft Master Plan for the National Western Center covers many topics, including land use, transportation, infrastructure, and design and it is an exciting step in reimagining this iconic site. The primary partners at the forefront of its creation (City and County of Denver, Western Stock Show Association, Colorado State University, History Colorado, and Denver Museum of Nature and Science) want a site that is unique, authentic, vibrant, and forward thinking. So do we. Historic Denver looks forward to continuing the conversation about the future of the Stock Show site, and we will ensure that the legacy of this iconic site is honored appropriately.