The murals are located at Platte Street Plaza, a previously underused area at the base of the pedestrian and bicycle passageway that runs over I-25 from Highland. Unico Properties LLC, a subsidiary of Unico Investment Group LLC that has been acquiring, managing and developing commercial properties in Colorado for more than thirteen years, recently completed the project.
Unico revamped the drab, concrete space between the historic Zang building and the Circa Building, constructed in 2018, into a beautiful square where pedestrians can sip coffee, eat food and enjoy recently-planted trees, flowers and free wi-fi; eventually the space will host pop-ups and farmers' markets.
“Platte Street Plaza is designed to become the heart of the neighborhood," says Austin Kane, vice president and regional director for Unico. "It’s built for the employee needing a mid-day break, for the commuter who wants to stop and enjoy the Colorado sunshine, and for residents and visitors meeting up before heading out to their favorite shops, restaurants or bars down the street. A new chapter is being written for Platte Street, and this plaza is going to be a big part of it.”
The two local artists brought together their creative skills to create large, colorful and thought-provoking panels that add an interactive element to the new community space. Unico recruited local art-curating and -consulting firm NINE dot ARTS to commission the work.
Molina and Barrios first began working together the summer of 2012 and have since painted murals all over Colorado, through their business The Worst Crew. Barrios focuses mostly on public art and curation projects, while Molina works with mixed media — sculptures, 2-D paintings or mixes of the two. “Pedro has a really great eye for curating. I think between the two of us, we have a lot of different skills that we can offer up to the people that we work with. ... It really is a team effort,” says Molina.
The murals, visible from both Platte Street and I-25, combine vibrant purple, orange and red patterns with simple portraits of people. Barrios says this combination of colors and portraits shows the transition of the area from a gold-mining area into a modern neighborhood. “We visualize this transition through the colors we use. We try to highlight the colors that are existing in the neighborhood and from the past,” he says.
The artists note that if you look closely enough, the words “Platte St. Plaza” are hidden inside the design; the words only emphasize the new changes by Unico's revitalization efforts, says Barrios.
Molina grew up in Colorado, and remembers that he used to go to a coffee shop nearby. “It used to be a totally different neighborhood,” he says. “Thinking about transformation and being a part of the history of this location, but being able to offer our own interpretation on how it’s changed now, is a unique experience.”
As runners, bicyclists, ice cream eaters, and dog walkers pass by the murals, Barrios hopes they each interact with the paintings in their own way — taking pictures, admiring them, focusing in on certain elements.
“The space is absolutely gorgeous, and it really transforms that whole area, making it more of a gathering place," says Barrios. "I’m thankful as a community member to have that space now, and to have been able to add to it."