By:  Denis Storey

Few areas personify Denver’s urban revival as well as the River North Arts District. It’s become such a poster child for the movement, in fact, that it made Lonely Planet’s latest list of top neighborhoods to visit.

“Through it all, RiNo is cultivating its unique personality and character, and playing center stage for the resurgent arts and cultural scenes that have transformed D-Town into the cultural dynamo of the American West,” the travel guide book publisher declared in its breakdown of the nation’s best neighborhoods.

RiNo, as it’s affectionately referred to by locals, is bordered by Interstate 70 to the north, Interstate 25 to the west, Park Avenue West to the south, and Arapahoe Street on the east. In the early 1900s, the industrial area just north of the historic Five Points area was populated with foundries, warehouses and other early manufacturers that helped power Denver’s early economy.

As businesses fled the neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s, they left behind several vacant warehouses, factories and an old infrastructure ravaged by a depleted tax base. Not long after, urban pioneers, most of whom were artists lured by low rents and a central location, began setting up shop in RiNo. It’s now a local Mecca for art galleries, more than a dozen breweries, and a few boutiques.

Daryl Oliver, a longtime champion of Denver’s urban core has witnessed the area’s rebirth firsthand.

“The River North Arts District started out as an area for the millennial crowd and the artists truly used the area to display their talents,” Oliver said.

Like the Santa Fe arts district, the RiNo area is home to a predominantly creative workforce, including architects, designers, artists along with coffee shops and co-working spaces. The area features a wealth of free parking and light rail service, while officials are planning several infrastructure updates to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

On the residential side, the median home value in River North is $421,100 – quite a bit higher than the Denver metro overall. Home values have been on a tear over the last few years, and are up 7.2 percent over the past year, with most experts predict a 3.2 percent jump next year. Residential rental properties are doing just as well, with the median rent price sitting at $2,000, which is again slightly more than the Denver median of $1,995.

While this growth is encouraging for the area’s homeowners, it can make things tougher for newcomers. On the other hand, this growth, along with the promised infrastructure improvements, means an investment in the area is a safe one for homebuyers for the foreseeable future.