DENVER (CBS4) — A group of Denver residents are trying to save Tom’s Diner from demolition. Earlier this year, Tom Messina announced that he was selling the 20-year-old restaurant on East Colfax.
Messina filed for non-historic status in May, making it easier for developers to demolish the building. According to Historic Denver, this is a standard process for building owners aiming to sell their property. Five community members who say Tom’s has sentimental value are trying to save it, by submitting an application for historic status themselves.
“To hear that we were actually facing its loss really cut us out beneath our legs. It inspired us and motivated us to take on this fight,” said Kaye Taavialma. She’s one of the five who submitted a Historic Landmark application for Tom’s Diner to the City of Denver.
“We respect Tom and what he’s done and the fact that he has worked tirelessly. He has put his heart and soul into that place and I know he wants to be done. We just want a chance to talk about saving the space,” said Taavialma.
Taavialma started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover the $875 landmark application fee. Donors gave more than enough to cover the application cost, but not nearly enough to buy the diner.
The property at 601 East Colfax is listed for $4.8 million. If you ask many of the GoFundMe donors, the memories inside that building are priceless.
“We encourage them to share with Tom directly, in a Google Doc, what Tom’s means to them, why it’s important and why we need to keep it here in the community,” said Taavialma.
As it turns out, what the community wants can make a difference. According to Historic Denver, this isn’t the first time residents have applied for a building’s historic status without the owner’s blessing.
“In the recent past, it hasn’t necessarily gone in favor of owner-opposed, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t happened in the past,” said Shannon Stage, Preservation Coordinator at Historic Denver. Stage says Tom’s Diner was identified as a significant building during a survey in the late ‘90s. She says Tom’s is “one of the last unique, best persevered, googie-style buildings in the area.”
Annie Levinsky, executive director of Historic Denver, says she has met with Messina and the potential developer, Alberta Development Parters, and “…Discussed ways to have a collaborative dialogue, as well as early ideas about how there could be both new development and some preservation on the site. We have also shared information about preservation incentives.”
Levinsky hopes to continue those conversations with Messina and the developer over the summer and work to identify solutions. Taavialma, on the other hand, is still waiting to meet the man behind the diner.
“We are still waiting and excited to sit around the table as the process unfolds and hopefully work to a solution that meets everyone’s needs,” said Taavialma.
Messina has not responded to CBS4’s request for comment. The City has received the Historic Landmark application. There will be a hearing in July to determine the next steps in moving forward. Messina and the group who submitted the application will both have a chance to speak at that hearing.