Even as gallery owners and art co-op members fret about the future of their home at Pasternack's Art Hub, which owner Scott Pasternack has put on the market, many are hopeful that the building will sell to someone who appreciates the creative community.
Over the past few years, the circa 1945 former pawnshop at 6851 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood has taken in a handful of galleries priced out of Denver, and has become a must-stop in the 40 West Arts District and the West Colfax art scene.
Pasternack says he wants to sell to a new owner who will take everything he's done with the 18,200-square-foot building to the next level. With massive amounts of still-unoccupied space and a number of rent-paying tenants — including Edge and Next galleries, Core New Art Space and Kanon Collective — the Art Hub offers plenty of opportunities for additional artists and galleries to create and exhibit art there.
The building is listed at $1,999,999 and advertised as having up to 28 rentable units.
Although he ultimately cannot control what a new owner does, Pasternack says that tenants shouldn't worry about having to move. And in any case, he's not optimistic about selling anytime soon, considering the pandemic.
Artist Claudia Roulier, a member of Core New Art Space, was stunned when she heard that the building was going on the market. Her co-op had already moved once in the past year, from a space in the Art District on Santa Fe that's also for sale.
"My first thought was, 'WTF?,'" she recalls. "We just moved from that situation on Santa Fe a year ago, and it was not smooth sailing. It took a tremendous effort to keep the co-op together and implement our vision for the future."
To move into the Art Hub, Core had to alleviate the skepticism of co-op artists nervous about leaving Denver for Lakewood and setting up shop on Colfax Avenue. "Now, I think, we have the best place in the building, but, oh, my God, it took a lot of work to get the space up to par," Roulier says. "It still needs a bunch of work, but at least we have the same wall space as over on Santa Fe."
Overall, she's happy with the gallery's new home. "Our old place on Santa Fe is up for sale again, and I think this time we are in a much better position than we were over there," she notes. "By that I mean, we have an art district that’s been behind us all the way — unlike Santa Fe — and that promises to do whatever it takes to keep us there. Second, Lakewood voted in a no-growth measure, so some huge high-rise won’t be going in anytime soon."
Still, Roulier wonders if anyone interested in the arts will want to buy Pasternack's building.
"Not much hope for an art lover to own it," she says. "The building is old and probably isn’t worth much. It would be worth more as a scrape-off, I'm guessing. Since there are a lot of commercial properties for sale around us, I’m thinking it would be a while before it sells. I am under no illusion that our lease protects us in any way, because someone would give us a buyout offer."
But while Core might not be able to stay in the Art Hub, Roulier is hopeful that it can stay in the area. "We love the district, and our sales had been steadily improving upwards until COVID," she explains. "The district and Lakewood are invested in us staying and will help us secure another spot. When we moved the first time, we got a grant to move in and help with expenses. I think the same deal would probably be available again."
Kym Bloom of Kanon Collective says that even if they can stay in the building, she and the other tenants will miss Pasternack.
"We’re all sad that Scott won’t be our landlord anymore, because he’s a great guy and has been very supportive — not only of us, but of the 40 West Arts District," she says. "He’s not just our landlord, but our friend. But I understand the financial realities, and that this year has been hard on everyone. He has invested a lot of money into the building and made a ton of improvements, but he needs to make money, too. And the building actually belongs to his family, so he has that to consider, as well. I know it was a hard decision for him to make."
Her biggest concern isn't eviction so much as a new owner hiking the rent, making it impossible for Kanon to stay.
"Most of the galleries at the Art Hub moved there because either our rent was dramatically increased or our buildings went up for sale and we were forced to move," Bloom says. "We’re kind of the art refugees of the Denver real estate market — albeit the lucky ones, because we found an affordable space to move to and didn’t have to close, like so many other galleries in Denver."
With three years left on their lease, Kanon's members have time to figure out what's next — though a move back to Denver is probably not in the cards. It's just too expensive.
"We really love being in the 40 West Arts District," says Bloom. "Lakewood has been very supportive of us. If we do end up having to move again, we’ll look for another space in the district. But moving sucks, so I really, really hope that doesn’t happen. Also, we’re running out of affordable areas to move to, so Lakewood is where we hope to stay.
Like Pasternack, she sees the possibility of a bright future for the Art Hub.
"There is so much potential in the art district and at the Art Hub that I truly think that a new owner could make the space not only profitable, but even more engaging," says Bloom. "There’s space to build out additional artist studios and the possibility of using the back courtyard as a music venue. We just need to find someone with money to invest and a passion for the arts."
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