Off Limits

Denver Public Schools is on a quest to replace Qwest. Last year, the giant telecom announced it was giving up on its residential Internet-access business as part of a giant shift in strategy -- which meant that half a million customers had until the first of this month to find a new Internet service provider or automatically be switched to Microsoft's MSN, which has a five-year deal with Qwest.

The announcement was a blow for DPS: For the last three years, students and teachers have been able to get Qwest Internet service in their homes for the discounted rate of $12.95 per month. (Most customers pay $19.95 per month.) For every DPS-related subscriber, Qwest was also giving $2 to the district, which it used to fund its technology programs, according to Christine Smith, director of community partnerships for DPS.

In fact, says Qwest spokeswoman Rebecca Tenille, that program -- called Campus Interact --had been offered to school districts throughout Qwest's fourteen-state region.

Not anymore, it isn't: Campus Interact officially ends on July 1. And that's a shame, Smith says, because "it funded a gap in the digital divide," especially for low-income families who make up a large portion of the public-school system.

But Smith, who insists she isn't upset with Qwest, says she's confident that DPS will find a replacement for the company.

Lots of other people are upset with Qwest, of course, not the least of them the company's stockholders, who've watched their shares plummet from a high of $64.50 two years ago to an all-time low of $6.26 on April 10. But none have threatened to fly a plane into the company's downtown Denver office building. That was left to 32-year-old commuter-airline pilot Edward Cavanaugh, who was arrested in late March after reportedly threatening to kill himself by doing just that.

"He had been drinking very heavily," says Arapahoe County Undersheriff Grayson Robinson, and had called a former co-worker in the wee hours of the morning to make his threat. The co-worker called the police, who called Qwest building security. Cavanaugh, who works for Key Lime Air Service at Centennial Airport, was arrested and involuntarily held for three days to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. (Cavanaugh could not be reached for comment -- which is why we're not running the party pix a buddy provided of the alleged, and inebriated, Cavanaugh taken shortly before he spewed his Qwest threat.)

"As far as I know, he was given a treatment regimen," Robinson adds. "We talked to our attorneys and to the U.S. attorney, and we don't believe criminal charges should be filed. Our intention is to regularly check in on him to make sure he is in good shape. But it doesn't appear that there is a danger at this point."

Not to Qwest executives, at least. According to a recent report that was posted on financial-news Web site and repeated last Friday on CNN, Qwest honchos working on the top floors of the company's taller tower at 1801 California Street were evacuated, while the minions below weren't even warned of the airplane threat. Qwest has repeatedly, and forcefully, denied this story, but cites four sources, including an unnamed person working for the building management company, who said a decision was made to do a partial evacuation because the threat was received at about 4:45 p.m., just before the work day was going to end, anyway.

Company executives bailing out before their firm goes up in smoke? Sounds familiar. And we're sure Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio's parachute is of the golden variety.

The big bang theory: What with all the attention focused on the going-going-gone Terracentre ten days ago, everyone overlooked the disappearance of another Denver building -- despite its equally controversial past. The former home of Ilios, at 1201 Broadway, was knocked down the same weekend the Terracentre imploded, and once again, the city was wielding the wrecking ball (or at least paying for it). But while Denver had to fork over $1.5 million to knock down the Terracentre, a fifteen-story building it had just bought for $15 million to clear the way for the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, Ilios went down a lot cheaper.

In fact, while the city got hosed on the Terracentre, it wound up saving money on the Ilios deal.

At this time last year, Ilios owner D Diamond was gearing up to fight the city over condemnation proceedings initiated by Denver City Council on the building that housed her restaurant -- a building that just happened to be located on the far corner of the property earmarked for the $65 million expansion of the Denver Art Museum and a related $150 million housing/parking/retail project. In a compromise offer, Diamond was offered two years' free rent in the same spot, as well as her pick of places for Ilios in the new retail structure -- plus a considerable amount of cash to sweeten the pot.

But Diamond just kept fighting -- until she abruptly surrendered at the end of the year, abandoning Ilios with a goodbye note blaming the city stuck on the restaurant's front door. "The City of Denver gave us an early Christmas present!" it read. "We are closed and unemployed five days before Christmas. Thanks for nothing."

According to Bill Mosher of Mile High Development, which is doing the housing/parking/retail project, the plan always called for the city to start construction of a parking garage on the 1200 block of Broadway this month, with a goal of having it ready next February or March -- when the museum expansion will begin, eliminating the current parking lot on that property. The city was going to work around Ilios and would have had to relocate all of the restaurant's utilities, since those lines were located in the middle of the block. "To accommodate her, it would have entailed the city investing a fair amount of money," Mosher says of Diamond. "Once she decided not to stay, there was no reason not to go ahead and knock down the building."

And like Ilios, Diamond seems to have vanished without a trace. "We wonder where she went," says Roger Sherman, aide to councilman Ed Thomas, who represents that district. "D, if you're out there, give us a call and check in."

Just four blocks farther down Broadway, another Mile High Development project has stalled. Last June, when Diamond was still battling the city, the White Spot lost its own fight to remain on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Broadway, where the classic coffee shop had stood for forty years. The White Spot was on a lot owned by the Rickenbaugh family that had been slated for another housing/parking/retail development -- with Kent Rickenbaugh as a fifty-fifty partner with Mile High.

But Rickenbaugh died in a plane crash last month, along with his wife, their son and a friend, Dr. Steven R. Mostow, in a tragedy that was a major loss for the city. It also put plans for the property -- just a parking lot since the White Spot was leveled -- "on hold," says Mosher, adding that Kent Rickenbaugh "really liked doing the real estate stuff." Mosher will be meeting with Rickenbaugh family members later this week to decide where the project goes from here.


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