Food News

Plans for Tom's Diner Property Call for a "Unique Experience"

Tom's Diner, pre-pandemic.
Tom's Diner, pre-pandemic. Brandon Marshall
After decades as a 24/7 mainstay at 601 East Colfax Avenue, Tom's Diner closed along with the rest of Colorado's restaurants on March 17; unlike many of those restaurants, it won't be back in its previous incarnation.

But at least the building will remain. On June 16, KEPHART, Denver Land Company and owners Tom Messina and GBX Group announced that plans are moving forward for a redevelopment project on that property, complete with the original building.

Not only is that building, which started life in 1967 as a White Spot coffee shop, a classic example of Googie-style architecture that's now on the National Register of Historic Places, but the Colorado Historical Foundation will be reviewing the design of the project. It calls for transforming the former Tom's into "an inviting indoor/outdoor dining and entertainment venue. The updated space will continue to offer guests a unique experience, redesigned to meet the ways they connect and dine today," according to the project announcement.

Many night owls who frequented Tom's Diner remember their experiences there as plenty unique. And that includes some of the project planners.

"Tom’s Diner holds personal meaning for many of our staff, and our familiarity with the site and its history will allow us to preserve its unique character while helping craft a bright future for this Denver icon,” said Josh Robinson, KEPHART project designer.

National Register of Historic Places
And Messina, whose desire to sell the property he'd purchased in 2004 for $800,000 so that he could retire after decades of hard work led to a fight of historic proportions, will remain involved in the planning process. “I am excited to be part of a team that will be bringing new energy and a fresh perspective to the restaurant."

And what is that fresh perspective? So far, details are being kept under wraps while the project team prepares to present them to the city.  A would-be purchaser had wanted to demolish Tom's in order to build an eight-story apartment complex on the land; under this deal, that won't be happening. Whatever's built on the property now "will preserve the iconic architecture of the building," Messina promises.

But not the 24/7 hours, and perhaps not even the Tom's Diner name. What the restaurant will be called is still under discussion.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun