DENVER – The owner of an iconic North Capitol Hill eatery is hoping to pay homage to the diner he wants to sell through the development of a new apartment building.
As owner Tom Messina fights to sell his property at 601 E. Colfax Ave., historic preservation advocates are pushing to save the old diner. The building — which has always been a diner — has been a pillar of the Capitol Hill area for more than 50 years.
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. Tom’s Diner is the most intact of the three, according to Annie Levinsky with Historic Denver.
But Tom’s Diner has been showing wear and tear.
Messina, who has worked at the diner for 20 years, is now under contract to sell the property for $4.8 million. He paid $800,000 for it in 2004. If sold as planned, an apartment building with businesses on the ground level would replace the diner.
“The builder has a beautiful project that he wants to bring to this area,” Messina said.
Messina showed FOX31 a rendering of the apartment development that incorporates the mid-century modern architecture look of the old diner. Messina says the sale for development will allow him to retire.
“I’m looking to do something else with my life and spend time with my family,” he said.
But the sale is being threatened by activists who want to preserve the current building. Residents and non-profit Historic Denver are encouraging city officials to forbid demolition.
“It was designed by prominent architects who were famous for Googie-style architecture out of California,” Levinsky said.
On Tuesday, the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously to recommend protection.
“It feels wrong, Messina said. “It feels like a land grab. It feels un-American.”
Those working to save the diner say they are looking toward compromise by preserving the diner while using an existing parking lot for development.
Denver City Council’s Land Use, Transpiration and Infrastructure Committee will consider historic protection status on Aug. 6. Then, the full City Council is expected to make a final decision on Aug. 19.