Googie Diner to Be Saved, Now Listed on National Register
December 21, 2019- We are thrilled to share that GBX Group, which specializes in preserving and operating historic real estate in urban markets, announced the Googie‐style building at Colfax & Pearl (currently operating as Tom’s Diner) will be saved from demolition and reinvented through a partnership between GBX Group and the long-time owner.
GBX announced the news in a press release and together with the long-time owner has already had the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for which it became officially eligible in 2007. This status makes the building eligible for state and federal tax credits, preservation grants, low-cost construction loans, and protection through preservation easements.
Throughout the sometimes intense summer debate about the fate of the building, Historic Denver worked to find a creative solution that would benefit everyone, because community interests in saving a piece of Denver and Colfax history and the economic interests of property owners are both important. Historic Denver participated to bring ideas, contacts and resources to the table, and Historic Denver’s Executive Director, Annie Levinsky noted, “there had to be a solution that benefited everyone and that’s when we reached out to GBX Group. They were instrumental in protecting the nearby historic George Schleier Mansion, and we knew they could help.”
The Diner situation first garnered public attention in May 2019 when the City of Denver Community Planning & Development Office posted it as a potentially historic structure due to a request for a Certificate of Non-Historic Status, which is most often a precursor to demolition. The City of Denver demolition review process provided critical notice and time to bring the building’s fate to the attention of the community. This is the purpose of the process– established in 2006– to ensure that irreplaceable buildings are not lost without due consideration, that the community and owner have the chance to weigh the loss of the building, and to seek alternatives.
In June and July more than 700 people signed a petition asking those involved to seek a preservation-minded solution, and a group of citizens advocated for its preservation through a local landmark application, which extended the consideration period. That application was later withdrawn, citing the hoped for alternative and collaborative approach. The co-applicants noted “It is our firm belief that the future of this building is in good hands, and [we] think that interested parties can come to a conclusion as soon as possible.” (Read their full August statement below).
In September 2019, Denver City Council approved changes to the demolition review process, which in the future will focus less on historic designation as the only path at the outset, and more on collaboration and win/win outcomes, including exploring preservation options and incentives before anyone, City Council, property owners, or community members are forced into a binary choice between demolition or landmark designation.
As an organization we are grateful that our community cares about its architectural and cultural heritage, and appreciate all those who worked hard to reach this win-win outcome, including the community members who stepped forward to seek a solution, the long-time property owner for his engagement, local architects and volunteers who helped explore options, and GBX. We look forward to seeing the new ownership team infuse new life into a valued piece of Colfax history. Through projects such as this, we believe the corridor has a chance to thrive as a place with both a storied past and a bright future.