Artist colonies are notorious for underground, communal living in warehouse districts, which can sometimes pose a danger if they go on for years undetected and living conditions deteriorate. Well, one of Denver’s own artist community’s, dubbed Rhinoceropolis, located at 3553 Brighton Blvd. was evacuated and shutdown Thursday, December 8, 2016 after officials received reports that the property had unsafe conditions. The move to evict the residents comes after a similar warehouse in Oakland, CA called the Ghost Ship burned down on December 2, 2016, killing 36 people.

“Cultural institutions like Rhinoceropolis must have a home here in Denver if we want to truly be a first-class city with a creative soul,” the nonprofit RiNo Art District organization said in a recent statement concerning the Oakland event.1

Signs Rhinoceropolis was Dangerous and Unsafe for Tenants

Denver Artist Colony Shut Down for Fire Code Violations | Denver Personal Injury Attorney

Denver Artist Colony Shut Down for Fire Code Violations | Denver Personal Injury Attorney

Rhinoceropolis was arguably the most important underground art colony in the Denver area, but was shut down by the Denver Fire Department for the following reasons:2

  • Officials were understandably concerned about the working and living space occupied by the artists in the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy.
  • Inspectors went to the Rhinoceropolis property and found a few violations, closing the warehouse on the spot and evicting all those within.
  • People were living at the location, when it wasn’t zoned for residential living. Basically, Denver officials and neighbors were turning a blind eye to the code violations.

Tricks and Signs that a Live-In, Underground Artist Colony is Growing Under Your Nose

There’s a terrible price an artist or even a passerby can pay for living at or even visiting one of these colonies, live-in workplaces, incubators or warehouses dedicated to supporting ‘starving artists.’ As we saw with the Ghost Ship incident, the ultimate price it can cost are the lives of those inside one of these spaces, if it should go up in flames. Obviously, many people can empathize with artists and the need to find affordable housing, but never at the cost of another human life.

So, let’s look at the signs or the trickery used by the artist community to create and maintain the existence of these unsafe places.

  • A warehouse tenant rents a space, but doesn’t tell the landlord that they plan to live there. Even though they have every intention of doing so.
  • One of the Bohemian codes of conduct is: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness, than get permission.”
  • One red flag is when the tenants says they work odd hours, and they’ll be coming and going whenever.
  • Inhabitants are often schooled to tell passersby that the art warehouse is operational 24-hours a day.

Top 5 Fire Code Violations

Most common fire code violations can easily be avoided. Let’s take a look at the top five:

  1. Blocked Exits or Passageways – This is very common in busy workplaces, where work or deliveries get stacked up and forgotten about. The blockage poses a danger for an egress.
  2. Poorly Lit Exit Signs – All fire exists should be well lit and designated with appropriate “Exit” signs above them.
  3. Empty or Faulty Fire Extinguisher – Once a fire extinguisher has been used, it should be replenished, or a new one should be installed.
  4. Fire Alarms Must Work – Every fire alarm in the building should go through regular testing and inspection.
  5. Smoke Detectors Must Work – The absence of smoke detectors would be a common fire code violations. Businesses and homes are required to have these functioning and well maintained at all times.

Contact an Experienced Denver Personal Injury Attorney at Bell & Pollock, P.C.

Have you or a loved one been injured in a fire or accident at a warehouse, or other type of business? If so, you can turn to a Denver Personal Injury Attorney at Bell & Pollock, P.C., who will investigate your claim and help you build the most compelling case possible and help you recover damages for your injury, and lost and damaged property.

Since 1984, our seasoned personal injury attorneys have helped hundreds if not thousands of victims of negligence to recover restitution for harm or damage done to them. Let our Denver personal injury attorney put his skill, insight and resources to work helping you. To find out more about how we can help you, call us at (303) 795-5900 or email our firm using the contact form on this page to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our lawyers. During this meeting, you will receive clear, honest legal advice about your case, your rights and your best options for moving forward.

We have offices conveniently located in Denver, Greenwood Village, and Steamboat Springs to service victims of negligence throughout the entire state of Colorado.


1“In light of Rhinoceropolis closure, will Denver do the right thing for its creative class?” published in the Denver Post, December 2016.

2“Lesson from Oakland fire: Cities’ artistic license can be deadly: Guest commentary” published in the Los Angeles Daily News, January 2017.

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