For years, people in Denver have worried about the fate of Evans School, a beautiful building that served students well until it closed in the mid-1970s. Then, two brothers purchased Evans School from the Denver Public Schools.
The owners sat on it for years, finally fixing up some aspects of the building. It was designated a Denver Landmark by the city, against the wishes of the long-time owners.
Now, after the ugly response to those who tried to save Tom’s Diner, there would have been pitchforks and torches if the city had tried that again. Granted, the diner was still a going concern, and a different type of building. Back then, it wasn’t a necessarily easier time, although preservation of historic buildings was more important 14 years ago.
I wrote about the fate of Evans School this past January, when a different buyer seemed on the brink to commit. But that didn’t pan out.
Then, a story in today’s edition of BusinessDen noted that the Evans School has actually been bought and the deal has closed.
The new owner is a joint venture that purchased the school. Joe Vostrejs is the founder of Denver-based City Street Investors, which is part of the joint venture. He was quoted by BusinessDen as saying that the new ownership group is “committed to making it something really useful for that neighborhood.”
I am keeping my fingers crossed that the buyers will treat it well, and bring Evans School back to life in the Golden Triangle. The structure, at 1115 Acoma Street, is an example of how Denver respected early school architecture. Buildings tell our history, and when buildings go away, so does our history. It’s just that easy, and just that important.
The link to the new story is here:
And below that, is the post from January 14, 2019, when Evans School was left at the altar by a developer who pulled out of the deal. At the bottom is a column from the Rocky Mountain News from 2005, when the city was wrangling with the owners of Evans School.
Evans School left at the altar?
Last June, I bought a ticket from the Denver Architecture Foundation, which was sponsoring a tour of Evans School. Rob Eber, the person who led the tour and offered us a lot of wonderful information, is the son of one of the long-time owners, Richard and Alan Eber.
The tour prompted many questions, including reports in April 2018 that a developer was buying the school and the land around it. Of course, the first concern everyone had was what would happen to the 1904 school, which is a beautiful example of work by prolific architect David Dryden. Dryden was the second top-notch designer to specialize in Denver schools as the district’s architect. The structure, at 1115 Acoma Street in the Golden Triangle, is an example of how Denver respected early school architecture.
The tangled history of Evans School spans several decades, since it sat empty from the mid 1970s through work that began in the mid-2000s. I thought its future had been sewn up, with a developer, Holland Partner Group, that was going to buy the school and the surrounding property and develop the land. The school was designated a Denver Landmark many years ago after a lengthy struggle between the city of Denver and the owners, who were required to fix up the school so it could be repurposed and secured to keep people out. (The entire process was agonizing.)
But a story today in BusinessDen notes that the developer is no longer under contract to buy the former elementary school. So I am again concerned about this building. A landmarked building in Denver has a lot of protection, but honestly, there are ways out of the situation.
Still, the building is ripe for various uses. The tour last year showed that quite a bit of work had been done on the interior to help put Evans School back together. Fingers crossed.
But from a portion of a column from April 2005, stored in the Denver Public Library’s research files, here’s just a taste of the school’s murky situation – from 14 years ago:
And then there is Evans School, which has slipped past Day 365 with major work remaining before the owners can lease the first floor of the long-abandoned building at 1115 Acoma St.
Day 365 may have been April 4 (or 12 – it has been that kind of moving target). But whatever it was, Day 365 was the deadline the city gave in March 2004 for owner A&R Investments to meet code and find a tenant. The penalty for not complying: The city could seek receivership of the building or, if the owners missed other deadlines, levy a fine of up to $999 a day.
Now city officials face a delay they’ve been told could stretch to 20 weeks. The school’s owners say that they didn’t meet the April deadline because Xcel Energy and its subcontractor couldn’t design or install a new electrical system in time.
“We’re going to have to allow a delay,” says assistant city attorney Kerry Buckey. “We’ll write to (the owners) that we understand the cause of the delay, but we don’t agree it will take 20 weeks.” The city will monitor progress, he said.
Jack Reutzel, attorney for Richard Eber of A&R Investments, says the owners submitted a plan to Xcel last December, but the utility and its chosen sub faced a work backlog. Reutzel notified the city of the problem in a March 25 letter.
In the meantime, the exterior of the building has been cleaned up, and windows unboarded and replaced. Interior work, which is not in the purview of the city’s landmark commission, includes removing one of the grand staircases.
Plans for a landscaping design for the school grounds also are in limbo, as the commission has bounced back proposals several times to architects Martin Design for improvements. In January the landmark commission asked designers to refine the plans; they are to return May 17.
Eber says the next step is to get the electrical work scheduled. As for a prospective tenant, Eber said he was talking to more than one party interested in using the entire building, but declined to name them. The cost so far to repair the exterior and convert the interior into potential office space has hit “several million dollars,” he said, with no specifics.
So Day 365 notwithstanding, the wait goes on.