Rocky Mountain PBS Plans To Put The Public Back Into Public Media
Don’t look for ping-pong tables and arts & crafts classes in this new community center. This cutting-edge facility has gone high tech, putting you on stage, in front of the camera and behind the microphone. The Buell Public Media Center is a twenty-first century version of the local community center. This powerful new facility reaches out to the community, giving people of all ages the opportunity, and ability, to learn, express themselves, and communicate with the world.
Rocky Mountain PBS and more than a dozen other entities have come together to create an innovative facility that caters to the Denver community. Located at 21st and Arapahoe Streets, the Media Center is the foundation of Arapahoe Square, a mixed-use residential area in the heart of Denver.
Who better to reach out to the community than Rocky Mountain PBS? The public sponsored, public supporting media business provides news, information and entertainment to all of Colorado. The new facility will serve as the high-tech home of the public television and radio stations, as well as provide 5,000 square feet of dedicated space to the community. Want to stage a play? Create a video? Develop a pod-cast? The equipment and expertise is in the building, ready to serve.
The Buell Media Center broke ground in November 2018 and is expected to open in the summer of 2020. Amanda Mountain, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain PBS, has spearheaded the project, creating a new home for the media company and reaching out to the public in a brand new way.
“We are really aiming to put the public back into public media”, says Mountain, “we want to make the media more transparent and accessible to the community that we serve.” The CEO foresees “Inviting the community into our multi-purpose event space to engage in conversation, to taking people inside the investigative reporting that we do, to having hip-hop concerts on our rooftop.”
With more than a dozen entities taking residence in the new facility, including Denver’s Emily Griffith Technical College, Mountain sees the center as the foundation of Arapahoe Square and a way to enhance the partnership with the community. Mountain says, “We really want to be public media in every sense of the word.”
Through a land swap with the Colorado State Land Board, the location was secured, making way for the three-level, 60,000 square foot complex. While there are numerous people and entities responsible for the creation of this new space, Mountain gives tremendous credit to Mayor Michael Hancock and The Downtown Denver Partnership for the vision of the project.
From the sidewalk windows looking into live studios 24-7, to the public-accessible content creation spaces, the intent of the design is to be a mix of function and performance while maintaining a unique open feel with natural light. Daniel Nelson, lead project architect with Tryba Architects has been on the project since the beginning of design. “We wanted to create an environment that was open and inviting while balancing sophisticated design with a modest budget.”
The complex fits nicely into the surrounding neighborhood. Nelson said the design is meant to blend an historic and industrial context with new, innovative technology. The result is a classic brick base with a high-tech overlay of glass and metal panels, which will soon become a fixture on the 5280 Loop.
As a non-profit entity, Rocky Mountain PBS has worked through the financial challenges along the way with the assistance of The Wells Partnership, the project developer. Joe Ostmeyer, Senior Project Director said the process has been a pretty good balance between being good stewards with public donated funds, and putting the best technology into the facility. Ostmeyer said, “It’s been kind of a dance to get to that point. We only have so much to spend. It’s a fixed budget.”
The $35 million dollar price tag is tight considering the size and complexity of the project. “We know what we have to spend and that’s all we can spend”, says Ostmeyer. “The entirety of the whole team has embraced the challenge.”
And what a challenge. Through all of the cooperative efforts in the planning and design of the center, the next piece in the puzzle was construction. Knowing there was no room for financial overruns, General Contractor Mortensen Construction took on the task of building a high-tech facility on a fixed budget. Responsible for projects like Denver International Airport Hotel and Transit Center, Mortenson brought the capabilities and expertise needed to the new center.
Mortenson’s project executive, Dave Espinosa discussed the partnerships between Tryba Architects and the other entities involved in bringing this project to fruition. Taking a proactive approach to the project, she said the experience has been “fantastic and supportive”. As a community focused venture, this has been one of those projects where everyone involved had a common interest in the final product.
There were certainly times where finances were a factor in the decision making. Joe Ostmeyer said “Mortensen Construction has done a good job in managing the process. They would come to us and say here’s how much things are going to cost, and here are some options.” The transparency of the process was a needed element to make the development of the facility a success.
Ostmeyer is excited to see RMPBS make the move into its new facilities. “Its been a great team and relationship between us and Tryba and Rocky Mountain PBS. Its just one of those fun organizations that you just want to help them be successful.”
As RMPBS prepares to consolidate their two separate television and radio locations into the new complex, they are working on distributing their current, outdated equipment to universities and organizations who can benefit from the donation. Equipment that is unusable will be recycled. As a huge cooperative effort, the Buell Public Media Center will surely create a positive impact on the surrounding community. With the anticipation for the grand opening of the new facility, Rocky Mountain PBS is planning a year-long celebration of events to welcome the community into the new, modern day facility.