Carla Madison Recreation Center

Denver, Colorado

The new community recreation center that bears the name of a former councilwoman aims to honor her legacy of serving the community and be an energetic and colorful reflection of the vibrant neighborhood it serves. The resulting five-story, 62,000 square foot center has become a healthy hub of activity off of Colfax Avenue.

LocationDenver, Colorado

ClientCity and County of Denver


CategoryAquatics, Multigenerational, Certified Sustainable, Urban

SustainabilityLEED Gold

Square Footage69,000



Landscape Architect
Studio CPG

Interior Design
Gallun Snow

The Carla Madison Recreation Center is located at the corner of Colfax and Josephine in central Denver. This unique location provides an opportunity to connect to and extend City Park into the urban environment along Colfax Avenue, the longest continuous street in the nation.

The desire for the recreation center to respect and connect to historical landmarks, Colfax Avenue, City Park and residential neighborhoods to the north and south drove a multi-level approach to keep the footprint small.

This facility provides greatly needed recreation opportunities to a currently underserved population in the surrounding areas. The five-level, LEED Gold certified facility includes a lifestyle pool, 8-lane lap pool, gymnasium, fitness areas, community gathering spaces, classrooms and outdoor amenities. The site is designed to create a new venue for community gathering.

“The Carla Madison Recreation Center fulfills a long-standing need for a centrally-located facility serving a large and diverse population. The state-of-the-art center is another catalyst along the Colfax business corridor, driving economic growth and maintaining a thriving cultural and residential area.”

– John Martinez, Deputy Executive Director Denver Parks & Recreation

Design as a portal

The idea of a building which is a connector or portal for an experience resonated with this client and a comprehensive public engagement process revealed the Center must create and strengthen the physical and visual connections to its immediate site and urban context to be successful. 

Sullivan Gateway, built in 1917, acts as a portal connecting the south entry of City Park Esplanade with Colfax Ave. East High School is one of four original large historic high schools in the city of Denver. BRS conducted a pedestrian study to see the desired paths of students. The street level of the Center was purposefully angled away from Colfax to preserve a view to the High School and encourage foot traffic from students.

On the east side of the building, the first of it’s kind, an elevated outdoor climbing wall, acts as a recreation billboard of sorts. The view west from the rooftop events deck connects the Center to downtown and the mountains beyond.

Because of it’s central, urban location participants can easily arrive by bus, bike or foot. It supports an incredibly diverse set of users including the high schoolers who's swim team reserves time in the lap pool.

The public art by Erik Carlson was inspired by the historic neon-signs along the avenue. "Circuit" was designed to represent many individuals making a whole just like a community. The movement and colors are influenced by the activity inside the center when participants workout on specific ellipticals. 

Learn more about this project by downloading a detailed brochure

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