Pay $1,385 for 245 Square Feet at Art Studios in Denver's Golden Triangle | Westword

Room Service: What 245 Square Feet for $1,385 Looks Like at Art Studios

The units are small but use creative strategies to maximize living space in the former Art Institute of Colorado building.
Art Studios has 192 compact units.
Art Studios has 192 compact units. Catie Cheshire
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What: Art Studios

Where: 1200 Lincoln Street

Cost: Most of the 192 units in the ten-story building are studios that start at $1,330 for 245 square feet (the unit pictured here is $1,385 for that size; with upgrades, they can go up to $1,700 or more). Select one-bedroom units start at $2,000.

Management: Boutique Apartments

The building:
Art Studios is the latest iteration of the building right on the edge of the Golden Triangle that started as the Western Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company in 1962; more recently, it housed the Art Institute of Colorado. Now, after an anticipated $35 million renovation, it is set up as housing, with the Colorado Photographic Arts Center on the first floor.

The Art Institute of Colorado was established in 1952 and purchased by Education Management Corporation (EDMC) — which ran Art Institutes across the country — in 1975. Students could earn degrees in fashion, photography, interior design, culinary arts and other artistic fields. It closed in December 2018 after losing its accredited status from the Higher Learning Commission.

Even before EDMC ran into trouble with the feds, it had been accused of illegally offering financial incentives to recruiters. Ultimately, it paid $100 million in a legal settlement and then sold itself and all of its schools — including the Colorado outpost — to the Dream Center Foundation. However, that foundation didn’t inform students about the school's loss of accreditation and continued business as usual, charging students the rates it had while accredited.

When it suddenly closed at the end of 2018, the students and staff were left reeling. In 2019, the Nichols Partnership, a local real estate developer, bought the property for $15.25 million, intending to transform it into studio apartments.
click to enlarge Lightwood stairs with a black metal railing lead up to a space big enough for a mattress.
The most common floor plan at Art Studios is for less than 300 square feet with a lofted bed.
Catie Cheshire
“This building just happens to work out perfectly in the depth of the floorplate, so that we can get small units in there and they’re not super long and thin,” Randy Nichols of the Nichols Partnership said at the time.

Back then, it planned to rent the units in the $1,100 to $1,200 per month range. Prices are slightly higher than that now, reflecting the skyrocketing rental prices across metro Denver.

The renovation isn’t fully complete, but it’s very close. By the time all is said and done, the building’s ten floors will have 192 studios. Building manager Samantha Chacon says that if someone tours and asks for a certain room or unit, the team will prioritize that one for completion. And people are already moving in.

On a weekend night biking past the Church, the nightclub across the street from Art Studios, I saw a woman point at the building.

“That used to be my school, and now I live there,” she said.
click to enlarge An abstract mural with greens, blues and pinks.
This mural incorporates materials from the art school that occupied the building.
Catie Cheshire
The inside scoop:
The Art Studios renovation honors the building’s history, using leftover materials from the school for many of its decorations, including the colorful new mural at the front entrance by artist Leah Pantea that incorporates metal elements from the school. “This piece was fully inspired by the building...and at one point it was also an Art Institute (from which these barn doors were left behind),” Pantea shared on Instagram. “I loved how these barn doors created the center point for this deco flora and how the colors interact.”

The pet-washing area on the second floor was formerly a dark room for developing photography. Other amenities include a bike-fix area, a maker studio with a 3D printer, and an indoor-outdoor hangout space on the top floor with a balcony, firepit, grills and pool table.

But how can units ranging from just 245 to 505 square feet be worth quadruple-digit prices?

Each studio apartment is designed with a lofted bed, platform bed or Murphy bed to make the most of the space. Most units have lofted beds, but those with platform or Murphy beds also have in-unit laundry. Laundry is free for all, though, in community laundry rooms.

The built-ins are reminiscent of Japanese space-saving furniture and capsule hotels. “It’s very much inspired by that,” Chacon says.
click to enlarge A light wood platform bed with cube bookshelves underneath.
Studios with platform beds like this cost a bit more but provide more storage space for residents.
Catie Cheshire
Each unit has a compact kitchen with an induction stove (and provided cooking sets upon move-in, since those stoves require specialty pans). Some units are designed to be accessible for those with mobility-related disabilities, with space for a bed on the floor instead of on a platform and grab bars in the bathroom.

The building opened this month, and people are moving Chacon says she was recently able to get a resident situated in just 48 hours from the start of the application process to move-in.

The building has good value, she says: “It’s very modernized. The amenities at this price point in this neighborhood, it’s just not really normal, not typical.”

Room Service is a new series that takes a look at what apartment complexes and other housing options look like on the inside. Have one you'd like to suggest? Send information to [email protected].
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