Author: Christian Britschgi
Image Source: The Reason/YouTube
Denver NIMBYs are using historic preservation laws to stop a restaurant owner from selling his diner to a developer so he can retire.
Tom Messina owns a restaurant. Or at least he thought he did.
For the past 20 years, Messina has operated Tom's Diner on Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver, Colorado. Running the popular 24-hour restaurant—located just a few blocks from the Colorado state capital—is demanding work that Messina is looking to move on from as he nears retirement age.
"I'm a restaurateur who's worked his life flipping pancakes and selling eggs," says Messina. "I have a beautiful family I want to spend time with. I just turned 60 and I want to do something else."
Messina's plan had always been to finance his retirement by selling his restaurant. That dream looked like it would become a reality earlier this year when Alberta Company offered him $4.8 million for his property, which the Colorado-based developer plans to turn into an 8-story apartment building complete with shops on the ground floor.
The price was right for Messina and Alberta's plans fit perfectly with Denver's 2010 rezoning of the property, which marked it as part of an urban center neighborhood fit for denser, mixed-use development.
Everything was going swimmingly until Denver's historic preservationists got wind of Messina's evil plan to sell his property and retire after two decades of serving Denver residents in order for new business owners and residents to work and live where his diner currently sits.
When Alberta Company applied for what is known as a Certificate of Non-Historic Status, which would allow the building to be demolished and redeveloped, five community members assisted by the local preservationist nonprofit Historic Denver filed an application to designate Messina's restaurant a historic landmark. If granted, this landmark status would prevent the building's redevelopment into apartments, drastically reducing the value of Messina's property.
Read More: Here