Space to Create Opens Up Possibilities for Colorado Creatives

Space to Create Colorado is a state-led initiative to create affordable housing and workspaces for creative sector workers across the state. The initiative’s mission is to develop a space for creatives to live and work, allowing growth within rural economies based on community needs.

Colorado Creative Industries has managed this program over the past five years in collaboration with various partners. These partners have come together to support Trinidad, Colorado, as the first Space to Create project.

Trinidad as a Perfect First Community

In 2013, long before the Space to Create initiative was introduced, Trinidad committed itself to an arts-focused economic development plan. With the support of over 1,000 residents, Trinidad began working towards a Colorado Creative District distinction. Trinidad also began to rehabilitate and bolster their downtown. The community’s goal was to build an inspiring art space by taking advantage of the highest concentration of historic buildings in Colorado.

In 2015, when former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced that the Space to Create initiative would be starting its first project in Trinidad, the community was ready. Trinidad received an overwhelming demonstration of interest and support from the community. Colorado Creative Industries Director Margaret Hunt described Trinidad as the location that demonstrated the highest need with the largest potential for positive impact.

At the time, Trinidad had a 67% vacancy rate due to the loss of mining work, leaving the community with several buildings that could be converted into housing and commercial space and plenty of room for economic growth.

Community Buy-In was Key to Success

At the start of the project, Trinidad posed as the perfect space to implement the initiative, however, a lot of moving pieces had to come together to make the Space to Create community possible. The Boettcher Foundation paved the way by being the first and largest donor to contribute to the project. Several other sources stepped up to contribute including:

  • Artspace
  • Colorado Creative Industries
  • the Colorado Department of Local Affairs
  • History Colorado
  • the Economic Development Commission
  • the Gates Foundation
  • the El Pomar Foundation

Most importantly, the community itself demonstrated its commitment and buy-in with over $2 million for the project. “It was all hands on deck,” Hunt explained. “We saw a lot of people come together to bring this project to life.”

Interest From Artists Across the Country

In addition to monetary contributions, Trinidad was able to demonstrate interest from artists who were being displaced across the country. While the majority of interest came from Taos, Arizona, and the RiNo neighborhood in Denver, over 150 people from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and even Hawaii expressed interest in moving to Trinidad.

“This type of interest in the project was exciting,” said Tara Marshall. Marshall works for DOLA and has been working on the Trinidad project in various roles from the beginning. “We truly believe that we can give these artists an affordable space to live and work while providing the same quality of life that they had beforehand. In some cases, we believe the quality of life may even be better.”

Trinidad’s Projected Success

Over the past five years, the Trinidad community and its partners have worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition. With the help of consulting from Artspace, Trinidad is now leasing 41 affordable housing units and the commercial spaces are nearly complete. 

Marshall noted, “This whole project has been so fun to watch. What’s even more exciting is how this investment of the state has snowballed into so much more economic activity. The growth has been incredible.”

Trinidad’s vacancy rate is now lower than 20% and is home to artists from all across the country. 

Space to Create’s Future

As the Space to Create project in Trinidad finalizes, Colorado Creative Industries will continue to invest in communities across the state. Ridgeway is the next community slated for development. These communities truly believe that creative industries are their future, and the State of Colorado believes in pushing their goals forward.