Reviving Colfax

Sleek, colorful signage marks a new arts district in Lakewood, CO.
LEDs + Lighting: Sleek, colorful signage for the 40 West Arts Creative District

It’s a storied past of the mid-20th century – of dancehalls and diners, motorcycles and motor inns along Colfax Avenue, a happening drag stretching from Denver west to the Rockies. Over the years the interstate highway system sprang up, and thoroughfares like Colfax Avenue lost their significance. Recently, the city of Lakewood and local organizations sought ways to revive the West Colfax corridor. What began in 2006 as an idea for a thriving arts district culminated in the building of two median signs to bookend a two-mile stretch of galleries and shops along modern-day West Colfax Avenue. 

“The installation of the median signage for 40 West Arts Creative District was as much about art and placemaking as it was about signage. In fact, we consider the installations art first and signage second,” said Bill Marino, chair of the 40 West Arts District (Lakewood, CO) board, and executive director of the Lakewood-West Colfax Business Improvement District, groups that commissioned the signage. Because the pieces technically qualify as art structures, they are able to reside on the median, where signage normally is not permitted.

This location also led to other important choices. “We determined that plans regarding the infrastructure below the street did not exist, so digging up the street to run conduit was not an option,” said Dustin Monroe, lead on the project with signmaker BSC Custom (Broomfield, CO). As a result, solar-powering the sign’s LED backlighting became a viable alternative. “We find that most clients are interested in solar-powered signage – especially because it’s a green technology – until they realize it’s similar to paying the power bill up-front. Plus, there is some additional maintenance with batteries,” Monroe said. “But in this case, it ended up being the less expensive alternative.” Monroe noted that they were able to size the batteries using an online calculator, and they chose standard controller and timer parts in case they require replacement at a later date. 

The 40 West Arts Creative District signage consists of two identical aluminum structures (both are 40 ft. tall) with a pole running through the center, around which the base and round signage faces were mounted on-site. The main aluminum “spires” of the signs each have two concave sides, so fitting all the pieces together was particularly challenging. The finished product is eye-catching and distinct. “The completion of this project was a milestone for our community,” Marino said. “These median monuments say to all who pass on West Colfax: ‘You are somewhere special!’”

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Signs of the Times October 2019

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