Central Library Bond


Central Library in Downtown Denver

The Denver Central Library renovation project includes significant upgrades to address safety and security issues, correct deferred maintenance, and reconfigure the building for modern library programs, services and resources. Renovations will occur throughout the 540,000-square-foot building to ensure the building remains a safe and accessible library for all. For a more detailed look at completed milestones and monthly updates, check out the Central Library renovation project updates page here.

Designer: Studiotrope Design Collective 
General Contractor: GH Phipps 


  • Park View, our large programming space on the first floor with views of Civic Center Park 
  • An added all-gender restroom on the first floor
  • Reimagined and relocated Children’s Library 
  • Renovated public restrooms on all floors
  • New, modernized elevators

In Progress

  • Relocated centralized service points
  • Deferred building maintenance
  • Construction of additional meeting rooms on the second floor 
  • Installation of stairs in Schlessman hall 


  • Renovation of Schelessman Hall

DPL Blogs

Rendering of first floor event space
                       Rendering of first floor large programming space
Rendering of remodeled west entrance along Acoma Plaza
              Rendering of remodeled west entrance along Acoma Plaza
Rendering of Children's Library
                                    Rendering of Children's Library

Address: 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway
Year opened: 1956
Last renovation: 1995 (major) 2010 (partial)
Square footage: 540,000 sq. ft.
Area population: 65,864
2016 visits: 953,878
2016 circulation: 1,226,843
2016 program attendance: 161,687
Status: Priority (Phase I) Agency Critical System Need

Project Goals

  • Address significant safety issues, including sightlines, relocating Security staff
  • Address Broadway entrance to realize efficiencies in temperature control and safety
  • Correct deferred maintenance: elevators, escalators, HVAC, fire alarms, electrical, data
  • Reconfigure basement-Floor 2 to allow for modern library programs: Children’s Library, teen area, makerspaces, new Event Center
  • Activate North Lawn for educational programs


The “Old Main” Carnegie library in Civic Center Park served downtown Denver for 45 years, until the City commissioned a design of a new Central Library at the corner of Broadway and 14th Avenue. Opened in 1956, the new structure provided more than twice the space of the original Carnegie library (now the McNichols Building).

In 1990, an overwhelming 75 percent of the city’s voters approved a $91.6 million bond issue, which included funds to build a new Central Library. The 540,000-square-foot Central Library, the excellent design of world-renowned Michael Graves and the Denver firm of Klipp Colussy Jenks DuBois, opened in 1995. This includes six public floors and three non-public floors.

In 2009-2010, with $4.9 million through the 2007 Better Denver Bond Program, the library renovated parts of the Central Library. This allowed the library to add an automated materials handling system, new self checks, Voice over IP telephone system and compact shelves, create the Community Technology Center, move multiple departments to new locations and refresh many parts of the building.

Community Input

In 2016, the Denver Public Library created a Central Library Vision Plan, with the help of Humphries Poli Architects and gkkworks, to develop a solid and sustainable roadmap for the library to continue providing vital services. The library received numerous, significant comments from stakeholders, community members and staff in over 70 meetings and focus groups. Comments to the question, “What do you like least about the Central Library?” include: “B2 CONF (Conference Center). inflexible/does not work” and “Cannot use stairs.” In addition, many people commented on the need for library improvements including the Central Library during the GO Bond community meetings. Comment requests include: “Improve interiors downtown library. We need better places for teens and children. Also, improved electronics throughout the building.” and “I love DPL! OMG Give them anything they want! Especially elevator maintenance and other features that improve access for the people with disabilities,” and “Central library is an incredibly important facility that is starting to fall apart. Time to renovate!”

The Plan (what needs to be done)

  • Upgrade and recondition elevators and escalators.
  • Upgrade security and access control.
  • Explore new arrangements for flexible learning spaces.
  • Improve data, power and communication systems.
  • Update ambient lighting.
  • Explore existing material shelving arrangement to obtain optimum customer use and convenience.
  • Comply with current accessibility requirements.
  • Provide new wayfinding and code-required signs.
  • Upgrade HVAC system for better environmental control
  • Address site issues including landscaping, sidewalks and parking
  • Redesign and enlarge public restrooms to increase access and security
  • Meet current fire alarm codes
  • Broadway entrance enhancements to enhance environmental control and security
  • Move security to Broadway entrance
  • Expand learning areas for children and teens that incorporate outdoor spaces and makerspaces
  • Create new Event Center in what is now the Children’s Library

Current State

Primarily originally built in 1995, critical building systems, technology infrastructure and architectural features are over 22 years old and have exceeded their life expectancy. The building was designed in the early 1990s, long before the internet was a common and everyday functional necessity. Key components of major building systems have reached obsolescence; specifically, elevators, HVAC systems and the technology backbone are in dire need of modernization. The high volume of use has caused excessive wear and tear and the original system and layout design did not anticipate the eventual needs of and uses by the community. Many of the public areas have become less effective due to the library’s shift in service to the fast-paced, ever changing needs of our increasingly diversifying customer base. The current event center in the basement is not large enough and is not easily accessed.

There is a significant need to improve upon safety, security and environmental aspects including poor sight lines and obscure spaces, isolated security staff spaces, surveillance and outdated restrooms. A key component of a successful modern library requires creative design approaches for individuals and groups to learn, make and create. The community has requested an improved library with better amenities. In addition, the Golden Triangle Partnership has plans to improve public programming, wayfinding and other amenities in the neighborhood that can be partially addressed through this renovation. The Denver Art Museum and the Central Library envision an educational and cultural campus that is a premier family destination. Current safety, security, mobility and aesthetic concerns create barriers to achieving the vision.

The Central Library hosts approximately one million visitors each year. Current major building systems, such as HVAC, conveyance, fire alarm and electrical have been in place and operating every day for over 22 years. Some systems and their components are obsolete and parts are increasingly difficult to obtain. The library frequently depends on refurbished equipment rather than new components for essential systems. Elevators and escalators are frequently out of service due to repair needs, sometimes trapping staff and customers, and limiting customer access around the building. Sightlines and visibility are compromised throughout the building, placing staff and customers at risk.

The Central Library provides coordinated resources and services for the whole city and system including the largest collections (books, music, magazines, movies, etc.), 120 computers and Wi-Fi internet access, and programs such as technology training (formal classroom style and one-on-one), makerspaces, small business assistance, non-profit assistance, student research appointments, Storytimes and a Western History and Genealogy research collection and services.

As the operational hub for the 26-building system and two bookmobiles, the Central Library serves as a delivery point for most materials, equipment and mail, but the loading dock has a restrictive height in addition to water issues, limiting the delivery trucks that can access the building. Restrooms are in various states of disrepair and have outdated fixtures that are difficult to clean and replace. The basement event center is used for summer and out of school programming for children and large programs throughout the year but is difficult to access via a small elevator and challenging to find by elevator or stairs. It’s poorly configured and too small for both library and community needs. In particular, customers using strollers or wheelchairs have a difficult time accessing the event space.

The surrounding exterior of the Central Library, including Acoma Plaza, is not welcoming, inviting, safe, secure or accessible. The Broadway entrance design contributes to a poor interior environment for the entire building, causing dramatic temperature variations and discomfort throughout the building.

Future State

The Central Library is the most publicly accessible and visited civic building in Denver and must remain functional and welcoming and be preserved for future generations. To address climate control and accessibility issues, the east entrance and the Broadway pedestrian and curb infrastructure would be enhanced to include revolving doors, a steel and glass pergola on both sides of the portico and a curb cut off Broadway for loading and unloading.

Public restrooms would be updated with modern, easy to clean fixtures, and plumbing infrastructure would be replaced. The elevators would be replaced with energy efficient models. The existing, challenging escalators would be removed and new open stairs installed to access floors 1 through 4. The Security Department would be brought to the first floor and centrally located for better access to staff and customer needs. Surveillance, electricity and technology infrastructures would be modernized and updated to accommodate the 21st century use of the library. The area dedicated to children’s services would be moved to a larger, more secure, visible area on the first floor with an adjacent secured exterior area entirely dedicated to children and families for enhanced, safe programming. A new teen area would be located directly above the Children’s Library. This frees up space needed to create a much larger Event Center, currently located in the basement, on the first floor for easier accessibility and visibility to the public. This flexible space could accommodate double the participants allowing the library to extend its own programs significantly, provide the community and partners much needed free or affordable community gathering spaces and provide revenue for the library through external rentals.

The key to these changes is the restoration of the building’s grandeur and function, providing excellent civic stewardship of Denver Public Library’s flagship Central Library.

Project Risks

The building will remain open for public access and use during the renovation processes. The collection will not be moved to an off-site location. There is very little space within the building for storage of construction materials, tools and equipment.

Risk Management

Partnering with Denver Environmental Health, Public Works and design professionals, specific testing of building components will occur at early stages.

Back to Elevate Denver Bond Program overview page