Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announces the city's master plan to overhaul Denver Performing Arts Center.

(Corey H. Jones/CPR News)

The City of Denver says it will spend at least $16.8 million to make its Performing Arts Complex overhaul plan a reality.

The master plan was made public Thursday when formally unveiled by Mayor Michael Hancock and his staff.

There are no detailed designs or a formal price tag yet, but the mayor calls the vision "very hefty." The city has released renderings:

“This project has potential to change our city’s cultural life in untold ways," Hancock said. "It will take time, it will take careful thought, and it will take resources.”

The city hopes to bring more activity to the 12-acre site that is often empty during the day. That entails building more entry points, performance venues and retail spaces.

“I want our community to be involved with the arts and for the arts to be accessible to all people of our great city,” Hancock said.

The first priority is to tear down the large parking garages along Arapahoe Street and to move parking underground. That could happen at a number of locations, including underneath an elevated and expanded Sculpture Park (soon to be called Art Park). 

The plan also removes Boettcher Concert Hall. A new, smaller hall with a capacity of around 1,200 will be built for the Colorado Symphony.

Working with H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, the city also imagines creating rehearsal spaces, pavilions, digital media studios and an education center. Officials are also discussing the potential to open a new facility for Denver School of the Arts.

Furthermore, the phased plan calls for businesses and residences or a hotel. The city says those public-private partnerships could help cover the cost.

The city's initial $16.8 million comes out of reserves from Denver Arts and Venues, the city’s cultural agency that owns the Complex.

"It’s possible that fund will grow," says Denver Arts and Venues deputy director Ginger White. "But at this time, we’re thinking about how we can best leverage those funds to attract private sector develop or to catalyze an initial project."

A committee will now decide how to fund and govern the redeveloped Performing Arts Complex. The city expects to request design proposals in 2017. But officials say it will be three to five years before they break ground.

In the meantime, the city also announced a $200,000 fund to commission different performances and events in and around the Complex.

"That's to activate public spaces, including lobbies, the galleria, Sculpture Park, sidewalks, you name it," White said.

The city will also use $250,000 to install new visual art works this year as part of Denver's public art program.