City plans to extend deadline on First Avenue Hotel to October 31

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Today was the original deadline for Jesse Morreale to make required repairs to the First Avenue Hotel in order to keep it open -- a deadline set by the Board of Appeals on July 30, twenty days after the city had slapped the building with a notice to vacate, resulting in both El Diablo and Sketch closing for three weeks.

But Morreale doesn't agree that repairs are required to the circa 1906 building where those restaurants have operated for over two years. And now, at least, he has another month to try to come to an agreement with the city. See also: - Jesse Morreale and the First Avenue Hotel have another date with the city - Hearing officer recommends against renewing Rockbar liquor license - Sketch reopens tonight and El Diablo reopens tomorrow after owner Jesse Morreale gets unanimous support from the Board of Appeals

Late Friday, the city announced that it was extending the deadline by a month, because it hadn't been able to do all the research on outstanding permitting issues in a timely fashion -- although you might think that research would have been done before the July 10 "notice to vacate."

Here's the synopsis from the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development:

Today the City sent a letter to the building owner's attorney stating that the City will seek to extend the Board of Appeals' October 1 deadline by 30 days. While the City maintains that the majority of the work plan must be completed in order for El Diablo to receive a certificate of occupancy, and to prevent a notice of unsafe structure, the City has offered an amended timeline for the larger issues (lateral load, roof).

We want businesses to succeed in the city, and that is why our number one goal for this building - like all buildings - is to help it come into compliance with the City's codes. City officials have consistently, proactively and in good faith sought to assist the building owner in completing this project. The City has assigned a project coordinator to the 101 Broadway project, has committed to expedite any plan reviews or permit requests, and has repeatedly recommended to the owner a meeting between his design professionals and City plan reviewers.

Since the building owner's July 30 appeal to the board, which was denied, the City has not seen progress on the building repairs that were required by the City and that were reaffirmed by the board, an independent panel. In September, the building owner requested the status of open project permits. Today the City was able to finalize and close five of 14 "open" permits from 2008 and 2009. Although these five permits are minor in relation to the scope of work that is required throughout the building, today the City acknowledged that it was not able to complete the necessary research on these permits quickly, and will therefore seek to extend the October 1 deadline imposed by the Board of Appeals to October 31.

In the next 30 days, the owner must comply with and complete the following:

1. Do not occupy or use the 2nd, 3rd, 4th floors of the building;

2. Do not occupy or store any materials in the basement;

3. Submit plans for permits necessary to complete the targeted repairs to the roof;

4. Resolve issues of lateral load resistance through the submittal of plans or reports based upon the additional analysis from the owner's structural engineer (JR Harris) as presented during the Board of Appeals hearing;

5. Resolve -- through the submittal of plans -- the unpermitted alterations to the building, adjoining structure and site.

The City will pursue the completion of the remaining items in the work plan when the use of the building is to be expanded beyond the first floor.

We believe the above to be a reasonable compromise that keeps the owner's employees working and mitigates some public safety risks that building deficiencies could create due primarily to the structure's age and construction type. The responsibility to effect the necessary repairs to the building rests with the building's owner. If the above referenced items are not completed by the October 31, 2012 extension, the City shall enforce the Board of Appeals ruling.

Before the city issued its announcement Friday, Morreale had this to say:

There have been no further plans submitted or permits requested because given the current occupancy, there is no further work needed. My team and I intend to continue to try to work with the City to bring this all to resolution, and only hope that the City chooses soon to change their destructive and intransigent tactics and instead starts applying the same good faith efforts that we have exercised.

While the two sides hammer out the details regarding First Avenue Hotel, Morreale is facing another deadline with the city. Last week, the hearing officer who'd presided over the September 24 liquor-license renewal hearing for Rockbar issued his recommended decision -- which was to not renew the license. The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses is accepting comment on the issue through Friday, October 5; department director Tom Downey is slated to issue his final decision on the Rockbar liquor-license renewal the following week.

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