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Tom’s Diner could be demolished within 5 years after group withdraws application for historic designation

The owner of Tom's Diner said he wanted to sell the building to developers to fund his retirement.

DENVER — Tom’s Diner will be issued a certificate of “non-historic status” Friday after a group of Denver residents who fought to preserve the East Colfax Avenue restaurant withdrew their application for a historic designation.

This means the building can be demolished within five years without having to undergo the preservation process again, according to Laura Swartz, the spokesperson for Denver’s Communications and Planning Department.

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Tom Messina, who bought Tom’s Dinner for $800,000 in 1991, has been fighting to sell the property to developers in order to fund his retirement. A company later created a mock-up conceptual plan that called for the demolition of the diner to make way for an eight-story, 113-unit apartment building at the restaurant’s prime location at East Colfax Avenue and Pearl Street.

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In June, this led a group of Denver residents to file an application to designate Tom’s Diner as a historic landmark. The Denver Landmark Preservation Committee voted last month to recommend protection to the City Council.

A public hearing was scheduled for later this month, however this is not happening now that the preservationists have withdrawn their application.

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Messina was concerned that if the building was designated as historic, it wouldn’t have been able to sell it for the price he wants.

Historic Denver said Tom’s Diner was worth preserving because of its Googie-style architecture.

Annie Levinsky, a spokesperson for Historic Denver, said "the applicants withdrew the designation application today because they believe that the conversations among the parties are leading to a favorable outcome and want those efforts to have the time they need."

"They hope, as do we, that new parties coming to the table can use creative strategies to include the preservation of the iconic Googie-style building in a development that enhances the Colfax corridor."

Levinsky also said the process has succeeded in identifying viable alternatives and in sharing a possible solution with the property owner and developer, Greenwood Village-based Alberta Development.

"Historic Denver participated in this process as a resource to bring ideas, contacts and creative options to the table. Neighborhood volunteers, local architects, developers, community members and others dedicated time and energy to explore a number of ideas, including studies about how to add density to the site without demolition, and all with the aim of producing a win-win," Levinsky said.

Levinsky said Historic Denver plans to continue urging "those making decisions for the diner to recognize the importance of this building and this place to Denver, and to pursue creative opportunities that can bring the old and new together so that Colfax has a chance to thrive as a place with both a storied past and a bright future."

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