River North Art District plans weekend event to lure shoppers, support art park

The buzz is back in the River North Art District, businesses and artists say, and they want to turn up the volume with a three-day event this week to entice even more people to the area.

DUER, a Canadian performance clothing company, opened its first U.S. store in RiNo in 2020. The company is spearheading “Shop Hop” on July 23-25 to encourage shoppers to return to the area and to raise money for the RiNo Art Park.

So far, six retailers have signed on to participate and will offer in-store discounts over the three days. DUER will offer the first 10 people in the store a free pair of jeans each day.

“A lot of our businesses in the district were just absolutely slammed by COVID. We have a lot of great restaurants and smaller retailers. We were really lucky that a lot of them managed to pull through,” said Marian Pulford, development director for the art district.

With the lifting of restrictions, businesses are seeing more activity, Pulford added.

“In the past two months, things are really feeling good again. People are out. People are vaccinated,” Pulford said. “People are going back to dining indoors and shopping indoors. We even had some incredible new businesses open in the district during COVID, which we’re really proud of.”

Pulford and others hope the Shop Hop will get more people out. Participating businesses will have orange balloons outside their front doors.

“They’re doing this as a way to shop local, support local, build up the economy right where they live rather than getting things online from all over the place,” Pulford said.

DUER, based in Vancouver, B.C., opened its doors in RiNo in October 2020. Company co-founder Gary Lenett said DUER decided to open the store, its first in the U.S., despite the pandemic. The company settled on Denver after Lenett visited RiNo, which is part of the Five Points neighborhood.

“I had been out of the car for five minutes and someone said, ‘You found it, didn’t you.’ And I said ‘Yeah.’ It just has this feeling, it fits our brand and it felt really community based,” Lenett said.

The pandemic didn’t stop DUER’s plans, but it did delay the company from introducing itself to the area, said Nadia Gillies, director of brand marketing.

“Normally, when we enter these markets, it’s not in the midst of a pandemic. We would look for different ways to … be a great neighbor,” Gillies said.

The company sees the Shop Hop as a way to do that and to thank customers. Lenett said DUER has a strong online customer base in the Denver area.

“Another big aspect of this initiative is that since we arrived in Denver and in the RiNo district specifically, we quickly realized the role that art plays in that community and in that neighborhood and how integrated it is,” Gillies said.

“It was a natural fit to involve RiNo Art Park,” Gillies added.

A percentage of the proceeds from the three-day event will be donated to the park. Individual businesses will decide what kind of discounts to offer.

The first phase of the RiNo Art Park is expected to be complete around the start of August. A grand opening is scheduled Sept. 24-26. The first stage includes Denver Public Library’s newest location, the Focus Points Family Resource Center and a second location of the RedLine Contemporary Art Center.

The second phase of the project will focus on performing arts. The art district is responsible for refurbishing and managing two buildings that will house the activities. The buildings are in a city park that was opened last summer.

Altogether, the RiNo Art Park is expected to cost $4.1 million. Some of the money is coming from two special taxing districts in the area. But Pulford said the majority of the money will come from donations. Events like the Shop Hop are essential to the capital campaign, she said.

“We have really great partners through all the local businesses and artists. We’re always looking to increase our base of support.”

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