City leaders announced yesterday that the area centered around 14th and Curtis Streets in Downtown Denver has been designated as the Denver Theatre District. The district extends from Arapahoe to Champa and from the 16th Street Mall to Speer Boulevard, and at its heart is, of course, the Denver Performing Arts Complex, reportedly the largest of its kind in the nation with 11,260 seats in 11 performance venues.

Curtis Street was once known as “Theater Row” or the “Great White Way” and featured an impressive lineup of theaters with signs and marquees that blazed in bright lights. Here’s a neat 1927 photo of Curtis Street from the Denver Public Library’s Western History collection:

Part of the new Denver Theatre District program is to install illuminated signs and screens on the sides of buildings in the district in a “Times Square” fashion, improve the streetscape, and activate the Performing Arts Complex park along Speer. These improvements will also nicely tie in with the planned streetscape enhancements for 14th Street from Larimer to Colfax.

This focus on Curtis Street between 14th and 16th is the first step in implementing one of the recommendations of the new Downtown Area Plan, which identified Curtis Street as one of several Downtown named streets that will function as a Priority Pedestrian Connection to help link Downtown Denver’s various districts. Curtis Street will connect the Theatre District with the retail spine along 16th, the Financial District at 17th, the Federal District at 19th, the future Arapahoe Square District between 20th and Park Avenue, and then on into the Curtis Park neighborhood.

A key infill development opportunity that would greatly improve the pedestrian-friendliness of Curtis Street lies on Block 109, where an entire half block of surface parking lots face Curtis Street. Not only is the corner of 17th and Curtis a super-prime location in the heart of Downtown, but sharing the block with this site is the Hotel Monaco and the new Residence Inn hotel… darn good neighbors if you ask me.