Program hopes to spark fun, business at Centennial shopping centers

City’s 'Spark Centennial' pays for pop-up events at parking lots


Neighborhood shopping center patrons found themselves running into a barbecue-and-blues concert and, in the coming months, might stumble onto events such as a temporary art café or giant board game tournament in Centennial.

Those are the kinds of gatherings that may be featured in parking lots across the city as part of the Spark Centennial program to fund pop-up, or temporary, events. The program intends to bring the community together and call attention to shopping centers in the city, some of which contain closed grocery and other retail stores.

“I think we’re kind of a forgotten shopping center, a little bit. With no anchors, really,” said Terry Walsh, owner of Rolling Smoke BBQ at East Dry Creek Road and South University Boulevard. “The Albertsons space is empty; the Petco space is empty.”

That parking lot across from Arapahoe High School is one of a few in Centennial that have seen large retailers leave vacant buildings behind, and Walsh wants to “revitalize” his center and stay for the long haul. That’s why his business held the first Spark Centennial event June 15 — a crawfish boil, barbecue and blues concert.

“What we are hoping for is that it’ll draw attention to not only ourselves but the other businesses in our shopping center,” Walsh said.

In an effort to invest in shopping centers’ futures, the City of Centennial is putting up to $4,000 toward each Spark Centennial event, which can be proposed by city residents, businesses, students, neighborhood or homeowners associations, and even people outside Centennial. They could last a few hours or up to several months, according to a city news release.

The city hopes to fuel more patronage at shopping centers and, possibly, for businesses to fill vacant spaces.

“That would be an added bonus,” said Allison Wittern, city spokesperson. Centennial wants to “capture the curiosity of visitors and (find out) what people would like to see there. And if that resulted in new businesses wanting to locate in Centennial, that would be fantastic.”

The money for each event comes from the city’s economic development budget, Wittern said, and the city started out with the goal of funding five events.

Walsh had wanted to put on a parking lot barbecue gathering since opening his Centennial location in February 2018 — he also has a Rolling Smoke location at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, where he’s held celebrations at an event center for free.

“It’s just tough to get the financing together to pull something like that off” elsewhere, Walsh said. “We just wanted to bring that same atmosphere and vibe down here in Centennial — we (thought) the community would love it just as much.”

Spark Centennial is a pilot program, Wittern said, and it’s intended to get the community together and talking about what residents want.

“The purpose really is to help ‘spark’ interaction and connect the community by bringing people to events and shopping centers,” Wittern said, “and you never know where it can go from there.”


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.