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A Zooting Success

Zsako also says that the DZL violates another zoning code that mandates "minimum setback requirements," guidelines that determine exactly where non-attached structures may stand in back yards. This alleged infraction makes very little sense to Terry. "The shed borders the alley. It's in the same place in our back yard as everyone else's garages are in the neighborhood," he says. When asked if the shed will remain in violation even if the library is relocated, Zsako answers, "It might be a matter of moving [the shed] a couple of feet away from the property line."

For now, Costello and Terry are waiting for to receive the cease-and-desist order from DCPD; fifteen days after it arrives, an appeals hearing will be held. Costello says that their landlord, although "a little nervous" about the situation, has given his permission for the DZL and is willing to let the legal proceedings run their course without stepping in. Legally, the library is allowed to stay open until the outcome of the hearing is determined; until then, the two proprietors are considering circulating a petition and seeking a meeting with city councilwoman Judy Montero.

"I know that the neighbors on both sides of us are supportive of the space," Costello says, "but I'm really annoyed with whomever is anonymously complaining about us instead of just talking to us directly. I know that the zoning people are just doing their jobs, but it's frustrating." -- Jason Heller


Building Blocks

There are signs of life at the Evans School, the formerly beatific elementary school that's been sitting at the corner of 11th Avenue and Acoma Street, unoccupied and unloved, for three decades ("After the Fall," February 12). Men with hard hats and cranes have been at work on the site nearly every day, sloughing off old paint, replacing broken windows and uprooting weeds from the 65,000-square-foot property.

"We're just thrilled and relieved to see something happening there," says Margerie Hicks, executive director of the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Association. "We're all just keeping our fingers crossed that it keeps up."

Designed by prominent turn-of-the-century architect David Dryden, the school was a jewel on the Denver skyline when it was built in 1904. But it's been vacant since 1974, when brothers Richard and Alan Eber bought it from Denver Public Schools. The Ebers have been trying to figure out what to do with it ever since. They've discussed turning it into high-end condos, retail spaces, offices or a mixed-use facility that combines all three. Located in the middle of a booming neighborhood, the building is now estimated to be worth millions. But it will also take that much to restore: An architectural assessment performed in 2002 placed the cost at more than $9 million. Last February, Richard Eber said he has struggled to find the financing for such a massive project and has waited for "just the right time" to make sure it was a success. "The timing and practicality of this thing have to be just right," he said.

In 1980, the building was entered into the National Register of Historic Places; in 2000, it was designated as a Denver landmark after Historic Denver Inc. applied on its behalf. Still, it languished, and neighborhood groups, architects, historic-preservation advocates and citizens feared the massive structure would fall irreparably into disrepair. It was a blight on a neighborhood experiencing a cultural and economic boom, including construction of the Daniel Libeskind-designed expansion of the Denver Art Museum, set to open two blocks away in 2006.

Last May, 34-year-old Tracy Rollert died after falling from a second story ledge at the school. She and her boyfriend, James Farley, had hopped the chain-link fence surrounding the building, planning to explore the vacant structure with flashlights. The accident, combined with mounting pressure from preservation groups, neighbors and even some Denver City Council members, motivated the city to take a more aggressive stance toward the property's owners. The Denver Community Planning and Development Agency cited the Ebers for leaving the building unoccupied for more than three months and drafted a rehabilitation plan that called for the owners to hire an architect and undergo a full cleanup within six months. If they failed to comply, they faced possible fines of $1,000 a day.

The initial deadline was extended after it blew by in January, but by mid-April, there were workmen chipping away at the site. In a May 4 meeting with the city's planning department, the Ebers announced that they'd hired architectural firm Martin Design to bring the building up to code -- the most important component of the first phase of reconstruction. The Ebers say they're still considering using the space for offices, though they've continued early discussions about using part of it to house the P.S.1 charter school, which is rapidly outgrowing its current home in the Rocky Mountain Bank Note building at Tenth Avenue and Delaware Street. In April, P.S.1 sponsored the Ebers' application for more than $400,000 in State Historical Fund money to help finance the renovation. The awards will be announced in July. -- Bond

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