Evan Almighty

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To that end, Makovsky has arranged for a panel from the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit development think tank, to come to Denver on November 4 and make suggestions about what to do with an infill development of this magnitude. He won't divulge his own ideas for the block, and he has rescinded his initial construction estimate of $350 million, pending the results of the ULI panel. "I wouldn't want anything simple," he says with a chuckle. "That would be boring!"

But Makovsky's friends and colleagues say it will be the centerpiece of his career.

"What we are looking for is a marker on the skyline that announces this is a center of downtown," says prominent Denver architect Brian Klipp, who's helping Makovsky develop a master plan for the site. "I see this as an opportunity to invent something new. I think Evan's vision is perfectly aligned for that."

Tentatively, Makovsky slips into the side entrance of the Fontius building. He doesn't yet have full access to the structure; he promised its old tenants they could have until the end of the week to move out. Inside, the building reeks of age, a mixture of long-accumulated dust and gradual decay. Ceilings are flaking away, wallpaper is slowly disintegrating, and faded rugs are littered with cigarette butts. A red, white and blue mural of a bald eagle spreads its wings on the wall of a dimly lit stairwell. The remnants of a small indoor running track are spotted through the window of a locked door on the second floor, no doubt once used to try out early Nike running shoes. There's not much left on the floor above the Los Wigwam Weavers necktie factory, its owner having closed shop and put the operation's trappings — eighteen floor looms, 1,100 yards of hand-woven fabric and 1,300 pounds of wool yarn — up for sale online.

Makovsky takes the rumbling elevator to the fourth floor. The door opens into an optometrist's office whose decor doesn't seem to have been updated since the 1980s. "Hi. I'm Evan Makovsky. I own this building. Is this a bad time?" he asks the receptionist, hoping to take a look around.

"Yes, we're really busy," she stammers. It's the last day for patients; the operation has to be out by Saturday.

There's no need to say another word. Makovsky bows his head in understanding and quietly lets himself out.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner