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Off Limits

In the City and County of Denver, apparently waste can be cost-effective.

Of the $132.4 million spent on the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, $10.7 million went to furniture. Walking through the shrine to our former mayor, it's abundantly clear how some of that money was spent. The airy central atrium is sleek and precise, lined with stainless-steel benches. Glimpses through windows offer views of aesthetically pleasing offices, with brand-new matching rolling chairs and neat, identical cubicles.

The furniture that 2,000 Denver employees used while they labored away in the City and County Building and other facilities was deemed wholly unacceptable for these fancy new digs, so in 2002 the city leased a warehouse at 3833 Steele Street to store the old desks, chairs, filing cabinets and bookcases after the move was made. In February 2003, more furniture was transferred to the storage space as the renovation of the Minoru Yasui Plaza at 303 West Colfax Avenue got under way.

Kate Javanbakht, senior buyer for Denver's purchasing department and administrator of surplus property, sent a notice to city agencies and local non-profit groups letting them know that in about a year, a surplus of city furniture would be available for the taking. But unforeseen complications delayed the completion of 303 West Colfax, and Javanbakht wasn't able to make the furnishings available until this past June, about four months later than she'd originally anticipated. With less than three months until the expiration of the warehouse lease, she set out to remind the agencies and non-profits that the used furniture was finally theirs for the taking -- after the architects on the Minoru Yasui Plaza project got first dibs, grabbing about two-thirds of the stash.

"We tried to get ahold of everybody on the list to pick up the remaining furniture," says stock-keeper Steve Wilbourn, who'd culled the remaining furniture and tossed any damaged items. "But a lot of the nonprofits had switched phone numbers or gone out of business. Not everyone was still around."

Some did get the message, though, and various people trickled through the doors before the storage space was closed on August 27. "Whatever is left over and is functional will be collected and moved to our permanent warehouse in Brighton," Javanbakht assured Off Limits at the time. "Nothing will be thrown away."

On August 26, the warehouse still held a healthy selection of unclaimed usable furniture. Dozens of chairs lined the perimeter of the space, stacks of desks sat clumped together in small pockets throughout, and filing cabinets with their drawers pulled open stood gathering dust in the corners.

The next day, the warehouse was locked and empty. The dumpsters behind the warehouse, however, were stuffed full. At least a dozen functional metal desks were crammed into three separate bins, buffered from each other by unsightly yet functional office items of every shape and size. At that point, Javanbakht conceded that some usable materials might have been tossed. "But we have to take care to have what we call Œdue diligence,' to make the most of city surplus and to utilize it properly," she explained. "We have to make those decisions on a regular basis. And there are some things that end up being of negative value, that are more trouble than they're worth, in terms of manpower, personnel hours, transporting and storage.

"Right now the market for used furniture is absolutely deluged, anyway," she added. "Not everybody wants junky desks."

Jack be NIMBY, Jack be quick: Last Friday, when the Governor's Awards for Downtown Excellence were announced -- to almost no fanfare -- the Champa Terrace Townhomes wound up with the prize for Best Design Project, a win almost as much for the surrounding Curtis Park neighborhood as for the project's actual design. That's because when neighbors found out that a 22-unit apartment building had been proposed for the 2900 block of Champa Street, two dozen of them got together and created the Curtis Park Investors Group, with the intent of building housing on that block that would better fit their Victorian-era surroundings.

"There is some inappropriate zoning in Curtis Park, and a lot of the empty lots are vulnerable to overdevelopment," says Joe Colistra of in situ, the design firm that worked with CPIG on the project. "A lot of the residents were very concerned, and a group of 23 people got together, and when this lot came up for sale, they put their homes up as collateral to close on the construction loan."

The group also pooled its professional resources -- involved neighbors include builders, real-estate brokers, historians, lawyers, etc. -- to come up with a million-dollar, four-unit townhome complex with an exterior that blends into the existing architecture but interiors that feature such modern amenities and design elements as bamboo flooring and concrete countertops. The Governor's Award cited Champa Terrace Townhomes for being "a true urban infill project that came to life as neighborhood activism focused on detail and quality."

 

With that success under its belt, the group -- whose membership now numbers almost thirty -- has moved on to its next project, at 26th and Champa streets, where CPIG is planning a six-unit project worth $2.3 million. Yeah, it's gentrification, but at least these neighbors put their money where their mouths are.

Muddy waters: Last week, Off Limits reported that the building at 2200 Champa that once housed Muddy's Java Cafe would soon became a gay-and-lesbian nightclub, Evolution. To honor the final passing of that smoky, dirty, wonderful late-night hangout, we invited java junkies to e-mail their memories of Muddy's to muddys@westword.com, and this recollection of a "less than flattering but true evening" quickly arrived from Denverite Robin Ruscio:

"When I was a freshman in high school (1993 or so), a new 'friend' of mine, Brad, invited me, my first girlfriend and a few others to an upcoming Pearl Jam concert. He had us meet over at his house in the 'burbs that night, ostensibly to ride down in a limo; his parents were fairly loaded, so it seemed plausible to us. As the concert start drew near and with us still waiting, Brad informed us that there had been a mistake and no limo was coming; he suggested that we call a slightly older, nerdy, pushover acquaintance who had a car to take us downtown to the Paramount, which we did.

"We managed to squeeze in his tight Celica and got to the concert on time. Brad went to the box office, explaining that his tickets (unseen by us) were actually for a show that was supposed to have taken place earlier in the year at Folsom Field but was canceled, and that he had to exchange them for the current show. He returned a few minutes later, saying that the ticket booth had told him his tickets were not valid. With no tickets available, he bummed $40 off the same nerdy friend and bought some weed from someone in line, and we headed over to Muddy's, which was the only place nearby that a bunch of underage teenagers could hang out on a Tuesday night.

"Once at Muddy's, we met a few slightly older (eighteen) grungish-looking guys who invited us out to their Volvo in the parking lot to smoke the pot. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, as I could see my girlfriend was swooning over the pair, but I grudgingly went along. We hot-boxed the car quite heavily while our older hosts impressed my girlfriend with their impressive history of drug use; they even shared their lofty goal of trying heroin in the near future. After sitting in all that smoke, and in light of the disastrous evening, I felt nauseous, so we left in the cramped Celica. I had to share the front seat with my girlfriend, who become visibly annoyed with me when I had to vomit out the window on the way home; by this point, the driver was too pissed to even stop. Needless to say, my girlfriend broke up with me a few days later."

The memories of Hart DeRose, daughter of Muddy's founder Joe DeRose, start with the original coffeehouse, on 15th Street. "The day they finally cemented over the old sign," she wrote, "I finally had to accept that Muddy's Java Cafe would not forever be a tattoo on the skin of Denver. As silly and self-indulgent as it may be, it is hard for me to see one of the largest symbols of my childhood and adolescence go -- even though I know this has been coming for a long, long time. My father created the first incarnation of Muddy's in 1975, and I came along only two years later. It is where my sister and I spent the majority of our time, day and night."

After the second Muddy's closed, Tim Fink, DeRose's former partner at the Champa location, moved on to the Carioca Cafe. Contrary to our report last week, DeRose has no involvement with that bar and is no longer slinging drinks -- unless you count juice boxes. He's now a fifth-grade teacher at Bryant-Webster Elementary School.

Thanks for the memories, Joe.

To air is human: "One amusing side effect of the increased elevation is the decreased air pressure," Linda Murdock offers in Almost Native: How to Pass as a Coloradan. "The change in sea level, which causes potato chip bags to swell, also causes you to pass more gas." While the other bits of trivia in the new book are guaranteed true, Murdock's publicist insists that including the passing-gas item was just a joke. "That is what her husband called his 'feces' thesis," explains Linda O'Neill. "She and her husband have noticed that when they go down to sea level, they don't fart as much, and it's just something they used to kid around with. But it hasn't been an extensive study."

 

Nor will it be. Joan Foster, chair of Metro State's biology department, says there is no scientific validity to the theory. "The gas you pass has to do the microbes in your colon," she says. "So it has to do with the food you eat, not with the elevation."

So we can blame Chipotle!

Clothes calls: Denver's fashion scene is changing it up. Last month, longtime institution iMi Jimi got a new owner. Now South Broadway's Sugar is getting a makeover -- courtesy of Wendy Marlow, DJ Sara T and Alisa Dowell. First alteration: the name, changed to Chielle. "It's actually the name of Alisa's and my dogs together," Sara T says. "But beyond that, I tend to like more Asian stuff, and she tends to like more European stuff, and 'chi' means 'energy' in Chinese and 'elle' means 'she' in French."

Chielle will be closed for the first two weeks of October while they switch out the inventory. "We're changing it to be more accessories, like jewelry, handbags, shoes," Sara T says. "Stuff that's under a certain price, like under $40. We're going to be doing more event-oriented things, and local artists are doing the displays. And there will be more local music playing."

Scene and herd: Yes, that was Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert headlining at Denver's Minturn Saloon (the original, in the town of the same name, falls under his jurisdiction) last Thursday -- toasting not the who-knows-how-that-happened release of Kobe Bryant's interview with cops on July 2, 2003, but Hurlbert's campaign for DA.


What's So Funny?

By Adam Cayton-Holland

During my junior year of high school, two of my more ambitious teachers had a brilliant idea. They realized that if they organized a student trip to Europe as quickly and cheaply as possible, then overcharged for it, they could take themselves and their families along for free! Our parents, long on cash and dreading the prospect of a summer spent on the front lines of a raging-adolescent-hormone wildfire, readily agreed. "Send the little bastards away!" was the attitude. Let them see the world; we'll stay here and try to figure out how to spin "Doesn't work well with others" in a positive, Ivy-League kind of way.

Although brilliant in its conception, the idea's execution was something else.

Kids drank until they vomited off balconies in Athens. They crashed their Vespas at high speeds on scenic Mediterranean islands. Passports were left on airplanes, luggage stolen in crowded squares. At a music festival in Paris, a girl from our group drunkenly hurled a beer bottle into the air; several seconds later we spied a confused Frenchman holding his head in agony, blood gushing from his scalp.

Occasionally we saw a monument.

On one such occasion, after a trip to the Palazzo Ducale and Basilica in Venice, my friend Benjie and I stood contemplating the city in a small plaza just off the Piazza San Marco. Our ruminations were interrupted by an Italian child chasing pigeons by a fountain. This was no innocent display of childlike wonder. This was a future serial killer acting out a scene for biographers and psychoanalysts to dissect for years to come. With disturbing zeal, the boy pounced back and forth after the birds, occasionally stepping on them, at one point coming away with a fistful of feathers. Were he quick enough to catch the birds in his teeth, there is no doubt he would have. His parents sat on a stoop admiring each other's leather coats, chain-smoking cigarettes behind yellow-tinted glasses. Tonight that boy would go home and wet the bed; tomorrow he would stab someone with a pencil at daycare.

"I wish that little fucker would just bite it," I said to Benjie.

Seconds later, as though God himself had been watching and listening to our conversation, the future biscotti-eater took a violent spill down a small staircase, hitting his head on the pavement. He burst into tears as the pigeons flew triumphantly into the air; his parents were forced out of their chic indifference to comfort their little Son of Sam. Benjie and I stared at one another in amazement, both realizing the same profound lesson: Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, things just work out the way they should.

And so it goes with Invesco Funds. The decades-old mutual-fund group that so boldly tagged Mile High Stadium with its corporate-shyster frat-tat is being restructured. Starting next month, Denver investment-management operations will report to AIM Advisors, a Houston-based firm under big-dog Amvecap Plc., which handles the sales and distribution of Invesco's remaining funds. I believe I speak for all of Denver when I say ha-fucking-ha!

 

A rapidly expanding firm in the 1990s, Invesco thought it could conquer the world, snagging the naming rights to the new Broncos stadium for a cool $120 million, as if to scream out, "We made it, world! Look at our name in lights!" They called it Invesco Field at Mile High, to pretend they had allegiance to Denver's past and understood our fond feelings for one of our greatest shrines. But that was a front, and we all knew it.

Times changed, a bad market badly damaged the company, and an improper-trading scandal mauled Invesco's reputation. Its Tech Center home, which once housed 2,000 employees, dwindled to fifty people. Now even they might get the boot, forced to relocate to Houston and report to AIM. Boo-hoo.

The real issue here is the stadium. Company representatives say Invesco has no plans to back out of the name, as they still have business in other parts of the country and outside the U.S., and it might make sense to promote those businesses on the building. But something tells me my little cappuccino-drinking psychotic -- not yet at the age where he actually kills people, but in that disturbed-loner phase just before -- doesn't care too much about his investments being hyped on a stadium in Denver. The name on that baby might be up for grabs. So before the Broncos sell their soul once again, quickly changing their best shirt for whomever rolls through with the most cash, I think they ought to consider a few other options:

The House That Griese Nearly Toppled

I Can't Believe It's Not Mile High

Champ Bailey's Stade de Bling

Air China Discount Organ Warehouse

The Qwest Center, by Qwest at Qwest Commons on Qwest

Johnny Hickenlooper's House of Chicken and Waffles

¡¡¡El Estadio de los Colorado Rapidos!!!

Nokia 1.6-Kilometer in Altitude American Football Stadium

Annabel Bowlen's Empty Nest

Ken Salazar Field. Hey, Pete Coors gets free press.


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