By Conor McCue

(CBS4) – Hundreds gathered underneath the Colfax viaduct in Sun Valley Saturday for the first ever Sun Valley Rising Viaduct Night Market.

The event had music, food, art from across Southwest Denver, and featured a new mural painted to represent the diverse backgrounds of the people who make up the community.

“You’re looking at what traditionally has been a parking lot,” said Dan Shah, executive director for the West Colfax Business Improvement District. “It’s being activated by the art, the music, the vendors, and the people. It all comes together and just creates a space that’s fun.”

The night market follows months of planning to fulfill the community’s vision for such an event. According to Shah, the idea is to reimagine underused spaces and even improve them.

“It could really be sort of like a central point for the community to galvanize its identity through these changes,” Shah said.

Among the dozens of vendors, several community groups spent the evening engaging community, including the Denver Streets Partnership. The organization, which helped secure grant funding for the event, surveyed attendees about a potential improvement project around the viaduct.

“We want to demonstrate the possibilities of rethinking these spaces,” said Jill Locantore, executive director of the Denver Streets Partnership.
For Carlos Maestas, the event was also an opportunity. After cooking in this neighborhood for years, he launched his new concept, Litto’s Taquitos Saturday.

“To finally come out here and see things come to fruition is definitely amazing,” Maestas said. “Sun Valley is very community oriented, has a lot of talent, and I think the night market here is that platform here for us to showcase those talents.”

This market is one of five planned across Southwest Denver this year, but the hope in Sun Valley is to make a more permanent gathering space long- term. Organizers say such spaces will be an important way to showcase the community and include its input as the area sees new changes and development nearly every day.

“If they put everything that’s planned, all the buildings and multi-use development, putting a community marketplace here will only add to that,” said Lindsay Miller with the Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center.” It’s really important that we show that these people have lived here for a long time, and they’ve built a community, and they deserve to reap the benefits of everything that’s happening in the neighborhood.”

For now, these markets are a start at showcasing one space’s potential through people and culture.

“When the community comes and sees the passion, the love, and the synergy that’s here, I think it’s going to draw them back,” Maestas said. “That energy is going to draw them back into this space.”

The series of international markets planned this year by the group West Denver Rising, includes events on Morrison Road and Little Saigon on South Federal. The next Market will be May 20 underneath the Colfax viaduct again.

Conor McCue