A couple of restaurant buildings in the Governor’s Park area of Capitol Hill are the newest to share the conservation spotlight.
Earlier this month, three Denver residents filed letters of intent to file a landmark application for 701 and 711 N. Grant St., the adjacent buildings on the northwest corner of Grant Street and 7th Avenue.
There are four restaurants in the structures, all concepts from head chef Frank Bonnano: Lou’s Food Bar, Vesper Lounge, Mizuna and Luca.
The notice – submitted by Michael and Joanna Negler and Peter Ralin – came after the property owner asked the city for a demolition certificate that makes it easy to demolish a structure within five years.
The city officials determined that the buildings from 1907 and 1912 had the potential for historical designation and referred to their status as commercial buildings along a former tram line, among other things.
The three applicants must now meet with the current owner of the property in the presence of a mediator appointed by the city. Applicants then decide whether to formally submit the landmark application. This move has taken place in recent years for the Tom’s Diner building on East Colfax Avenue, the Carmen Court apartment complex on Speer Boulevard, and most recently the Denver7 building on the corner of Speer and Lincoln Streets.
Landmark status would effectively prevent the buildings from being demolished.
There are four restaurants in the buildings, including the Vesper Lounge. (Thomas Gounley, BusinessDen)
The buildings are owned by 7th & Grant LLC, part of the Sherman Agency, a Denver-based real estate company. The company also owns the parking lot to the north, according to property records – a total of about 0.71 acres based on the land the buildings are on.
This is a significant advantage in a part of the city where developers of large apartment complexes have devoured large swaths of land. Atlanta-based Gables Residential acquired 0.79 acres on the 700 block of Sherman Street in February, the same month the Virginia-based AvalonBay Communities bought a block south of land, including the former Racines restaurant building.
Denver7 television network has meanwhile signed a deal to sell to New York-based Property Markets Group, which is to carry out a residential project.
Hal Naiman, president of the Sherman Agency, told BusinessDen late last week that the group of owners was not under a sales contract but “really wanted to explore all of our options here.”
“Honestly, what led to this is COVID … we made a lot of concessions,” said Naiman. “From that point of view, it hasn’t been a great investment for the ownership group lately.”
Naiman said he doesn’t think the buildings are worth being a landmark in the city. And he expressed general concern about how the landmark process is being applied.
“People are fed up with development and are using it as a tool to prevent owners from doing what they want with their property,” he said.
Naiman said a Bonanno investor has also expressed an interest in buying the buildings. The two sides haven’t reached an agreement, Naiman said, but he doesn’t consider this possibility completely dead.
Meanwhile, Joanna Negler said she and her husband live a few blocks away and have been to Bonnano’s restaurants. The quality assurance manager at a software company said she was curious to investigate how much of the city’s tram past could still be found.
“You could tell a story that might be being wiped away,” she said of the buildings.
Negler also raised concerns about how large apartment complexes affect the “neighborhood feel”, saying smaller buildings like the one on 7th and Grant help to mitigate this.
“At the moment they are working,” she said. “The people are there.”