Denver's old buildings getting new lives

DENVER - Jim Baraglia had heard the ghost stories, but they weren't enough to keep him away from the building he thought would be the perfect location for his business.

"There are stories that Buffalo Bill's body was housed right here," Baraglia said while motioning at the check-in desk of LoHi Athletic Club, located on West 30th Avenue near Umatilla Street in the Highlands. His building was once the Olinger Mortuary and Funeral Home.

But that fact didn't deter him from choosing the site, which is also home to Linger, a restaurant with a name that nods to the building's past.

"It really fits with everything here in LoHi, and there's been a lot of support," Baraglia said.

The City of Denver is seeing more businesses make the same decision, using old buildings in a new way.

"It's called adaptive reuse, and we see it a lot in Denver," Andrea Burns, communications director for Denver's Office of Community Planning and Development, said. "It's very popular right now. Denver has tons of old buildings, and people are choosing to relocate into some of those buildings in some cases rather than building something new."

One of the newest success stories is The Metlo, a former sketchy motel which has transformed into a collection of 30 office suites, 28 of which are already filled.

"We just cleaned and reused what was here and brought back the beauty of the old building," property manager Mark Rycroft said.

The rate of adaptive reuse in Denver has increased, but it still hasn't outpaced new construction, which is also on the rise. Some of those new buildings are in older areas that could use the facelift.

That includes East Colfax Avenue, where Hoa Vu and his wife chose to build their new business Salon Joa. The couple says people are often surprised by the location.

"We're part of the rebuilding Colfax program, where they give you incentives like tax breaks to build your business," Vu said. "We're excited to see how they're going to reconstruct Colfax."

Burns says a combination of old and new buildings is a good formula for business success in the city.

"[New buildings] can compliment those great old buildings," she said.

Burns says old buildings offer visual interest, good location and sentimental value. But those buildings can also present issues.

"You can have challenges bringing that building up to code," she said.

For Rycroft and his father-in-law, who came up with the concept for the Metlo, the sturdy frame of the old Broadway Plaza Motel didn't present many challenges.

"We never changed anything in the building," he said, explaining how crews removed three layers of carpet from the floors. "We're just bringing it back to what it used to be in 1958."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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