After the Fall

The Evans school has seen a lot over the past century -- including a death last spring. But does this building have a future?

Craig Nassi of BCN Development is known for properties that are far from commonplace. He built the Euro-style Belvedere, Prado and Beauvallon high-rises that now dominate the Golden Triangle. Five years ago, he offered Eber $5 million for the Evans property. Nassi hoped to restore the building and convert it into high-end condominiums.

"I would have lived in that place," he says. "It's got so much significance, Old World details. I did everything I could to try to buy it. But Dick was telling me in a laughing voice that there wasn't enough money in the world for him to sell it. I have a great deal of respect for him because of that, actually. Yes, it's a shame that it's sitting there vacant. But Dick loves the building, and it's his right to do whatever he wants with it, even if it's nothing.

"I get very frustrated when people are so critical of him," Nassi continues. "The owners have the right to do what they want as long as the building isn't endangering anyone or posing a hazard. He pays his property taxes and insurance; he keeps up the maintenance; the roof is not collapsing. Dick Eber is not obligated to sell or to build that property up. He's done nothing wrong."

Building for the future: An intern at an architectural firm 
created this idealized model of the Evans school.
Building for the future: An intern at an architectural firm created this idealized model of the Evans school.

Tracy Rollert's taste for adventure may have been hereditary. When she was a young girl, she and her father would explore abandoned buildings around their home state of Nebraska.

Friends say she could talk anyone into anything.

Jim Farley didn't need to be talked into much. After he met Tracy in a bar in September 2002, the two became inseparable, in love, mismatched as they may have seemed. Blonde and blue-eyed Tracy was from an upper-class family, had a three-year-old son and was sweet, open and Midwestern. Jim was eleven years younger and thoroughly East Coast -- a dark-haired, hot-tempered boy from the Bronx. But they were drawn to each other from the start. Tracy was going through a rough period -- she and her husband were in the midst of a divorce -- and Jim helped ease her depression and frustration. They tried to keep things light and teasing: Tracy hated hip-hop music, so Jim once programmed all of the stations on her car radio to a local rap station, just to make her crazy. But there was also tenderness. When the two were separated for ten days over the holidays, Tracy wrote Jim ten cards, one each day, telling him she loved him.

"We were always doing things just to make each other laugh or feel good," Jim says. "She was silly, and she was always smiling. I think I've always been kind of a sad person, but I wasn't sad with her." Tracy was attractive and attentive, and he couldn't believe she liked him.

"She was beautiful," he remembers. "I kept asking her, 'What are you doing with me? When are you going to leave me?'"

Some of Tracy's friends were asking the same questions. For all its fun, the relationship was also volatile and sometimes reckless, and Tracy's girlfriends disapproved. The couple escaped into each other, and into drugs: Some nights they hit clubs and parties, drinking and taking pills; others, they stayed up all night watching All in the Family reruns and Star Trek movies. They fought a lot, and the police once showed up at Tracy's home in Parker after neighbors called to report a domestic dispute. Jim, who already had a record in Douglas County for a marijuana-possession charge, was arrested for disturbing the peace, and Tracy's husband later asked a judge to prohibit Jim from being around their three-year-old son.

But by spring, things were looking better. Tracy had found a job she liked, as an account executive at the graphic-design firm where Jim freelanced as a computer programmer when he wasn't attending classes. She was in a support group for her drug problem, committed to getting clean and being a good mom. She and Jim had agreed that Tracy would spend more time at her own house and Jim would sleep more nights at his Capitol Hill apartment. They envisioned a future together -- even talked about having kids -- but wanted to be sure that they first found their way to solid, sober ground.

"We both realized what the drugs were doing to our personal lives, and we both decided it was time to start working things out," Jim says. "We loved each other, and we had problems, but many things about our relationship were perfect, even if other people couldn't see that."

Jim and Tracy decided to celebrate this new phase of their lives with a special day, and they spent weeks planning it. When the agreed-upon day -- Sunday, May 18, 2003 -- finally came, they got up early, played miniature golf in Thornton, then ate a big lunch at Applebee's. Feeling close and happy, they decided to have a few drinks at Applebee's bar, then a few more at another bar back in Denver. By 1 a.m., they were buzzed and not yet ready to go home. On the way back to Jim's apartment, they passed the Evans school -- a vacant building they'd both fantasized about checking out.

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