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Preservation group reaches deal with owner of Tom’s Diner; building will not be demolished

Tom's Diner on Colfax near downtown Denver

DENVER — Tom’s Diner on East Colfax Avenue will not be demolished.

In a press release issued Saturday, Cleveland-based GBX Group announced that the property will be preserved and “reinvented” through a partnership with owner Thomas Messina. The group also announced the building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Messina has owned the property since 2004, when he bought it for $800,000. He planned to sell it to a developer for $4.8 million.

The developer wanted to build apartments on the site.

But earlier this year, a group called Historic Denver attempted to prevent the building from being demolished and tried to make the building a historic landmark with the city and county of Denver.

In August, however, Historic Denver withdrew its application with the city to make the diner a landmark, clearing the way for its demolition.

According to its website, GBX Group “specializes in preserving and operating historic real estate in urban markets. GBX partners with property owners, developers, and local preservation organizations to acquire, redevelop, and preserve historic real estate, generating community revitalization and economic growth.”

Drew Sparacia, the group’s founder, said details about its partnership with Messina are still being finalized, but it intends to preserve and rehabilitate the building’s facade and its important interior elements.

“When we learned about Tom’s Diner, we took an active interest in finding a balance between economic realities and preserving a historically important property. In addition to our substantial investment, we will utilize various federal and state incentive programs to achieve this balance. These programs include historic tax credits and preservation easement deductions. Additionally, we will improve and modernize the functionality of the property to ensure it is a contributing economic asset to the City of Denver,” Sparacia said.

The founder added that many historic buildings in the U.S. are being demolished to make way for new development.

“There are many government incentive programs available to help bridge the economic gap between building new and preserving the old. Unfortunately, identifying and working with the myriad of programs is quite difficult. That is why the work of local preservation groups like Historic Denver is critical,” Sparacia said.

The press release did not provide financial details about the agreement, including how much GBX is going to pay Messina.

Tom’s Diner first opened as the White Spot Restaurant in 1967. At one point, the Colorado chain had 25 locations. Today, only three of the original White Spot buildings remain.

The diner is an example of Googie-style architecture, which is rare in the Denver area.

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