I complain about the bulldozing of Denver's sometimes tacky but often unique cowtown-ish architectural history a lot. It wasn't that long ago that we weren't very cool; in my salad days of the early 2000s, I rented a sprawling two-bedroom apartment in a beautiful '40s-era building on Cheesman Park for $795. That time is gone -- which is why I am writing this from my six-foot-by-six foot room in a commune I share with five other people in a quaint joint on the west side.
I feel like I am constantly at odds with what developers seem to think will look cool in my sweet little city, but as Denver continues to grow, I understand that I cannot stand in the way of progress. Which is why I was surprised and, frankly, overjoyed to see what has been done with the old Broadway Plaza Motel at 11th and Broadway.
Built in 1958, this once-glorious motel eventually suffered the fate of many home-away-from-homes located on busy streets in Denver. Routes into the city changed (see: Colfax's historical decline after a beefed-up highway system rerouted how travelers enter Denver). People's tastes in accommodations changed. Denver changed.
If you saw the Broadway Plaza Motel in the last decade or so before the remodel, then you know its final destination as a rest stop for the weary and questionable. I'm no hater, and I'm not about to judge the former patrons of the place (hell, I can't even afford to live in the neighborhood around that motel anymore).
When I drove by in January and saw that the building was being gutted, I got flustered. I was concerned that the beautiful blocky structure was being destroyed -- and I am one of those annoying folks who is a sucker for mid-century modern anything. But luckily, there was nothing of the sort happening: The motel was merely been transformed into office space, all without a hint of harm to the structure's bones or facade.
Developer Jon Cook actually honored the building's origins, opening up the rooms by adding glass along the south side. Despite the fact that it's now painted all black and shocking neon green like a CrossFit gym, the Broadway Plaza Motel still looks like the Broadway Plaza Motel -- just better.
Of course, the place is being intentionally populated by buzzword businesses -- creatives getting their networking on inside their co-working space-sharing office pods and whatnot. While in my dreams the new and improved Broadway Plaza Motel would be filled with DIY screen printers, band practice spaces and a ground floor hangout for teenagers that resembled The Peach Pit, I totally get it. The landlords are like most business owners: They're looking to make money and have stable tenants.
I want to commend the people behind this project for not taking the dreaded idea of "revitalization" to the awful level of whitewashing that seems to be the norm across Denver these days. I appreciate that they preserved the character and charm of a very lovable building and didn't raze it in favor of some offensive-looking beige box with sterile, ugly corrugated metal accents.
They are even restoring the neon sign -- though the letters forming "motel" will be rearranged into "Metlo." Why? I don't know. Maybe they think people will be confused and assume the Broadway Plaza Motel is still a motel. Maybe they want to rechristen the structure in a celebration of its new life. Whatever the case, as much as I will always hate the name, I will be forever grateful that another mid-century-modern structure was saved from the destructive hands of developers who can't see Denver for what it really is: a tacky, lovable little cowtown.
For photos of the Broadway Plaza's beautiful finish, check out the Denver Urbanism blog.
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