by John Kiljan
A bit of Arvada’s history is passing before our eyes. Final demolition began on the Masons’ Hall on Wednesday. Attached are a few photos of the building’s last moments as it is being leveled and what will replace it. Construction on a new upscale apartment complex called Park Place Olde Town should begin soon.
Asbestos abatement has already taken place. The bricks in the building are not being salvaged by the contractor, but the reinforcing steel is supposed to be, according to workmen on the site.
The removed cornerstone plaque is rumored to have been preserved, along with a 1948 time capsule, to be placed in the new replacement apartment building as it is constructed.
Before being acquire for demolition, a study was done to see if the old building could be re-purposed for offices or apartments, but nothing appeared economically feasible and the building would have lost much of its character in the process. Retail was considered a lost cause because of the difficult access.
Working against it were a poor building design (good for the Masons’ secretive meetings, but not for other tenants), needed environmental remediation, limited handicap accessibility, poor street access, and a building that had a lot of deferred maintenance issues.
You can see what a couple of (rejected) re-purposing options would have done to the building by looking at this planning file done by the developer.
Despite that, the razing of building was controversial because of its place in Arvada history. Also controversial are the replacement apartments to be located on that site and extending all the way down to include the Lion’s Club to the south. The adjacent Lions Club seems to have been partly constructed from recycled building materials. It also was not feasible to reuse, and it will soon be pulled down as well.
The City of Arvada and the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA) actively encouraged the developer to forgo building conventional two- or three-story walk-up apartments on the site in favor of four stories of apartments sitting atop a ground-level parking garage with elevator and handicap access, and a lot of other features intended to make the building more attractive to a variety of tenants.
The 153-unit complex is also consistent with City planners’ design guidelines that say Arvada should have higher density developments near the new Gold Line commuter rail stations opening up in 2016. But that also gives the new apartment block a total of five stories in height — and that was too much for residents on the other side of the Wadsworth Bypass who wanted a more modest development that also kept the Masons Lodge intact.
To offset the substantially increased cost of the requested building improvements, AURA agreed to support the new Park Place Olde Town development by giving the developer much of the land needed to build the new housing for free. The developer is still taking a risk in hoping that future renters will be willing to pay more to be within walking distance of Olde Town and a view that looks out over McIlvoy Park — Arvada’s oldest park.
For Olde Town retail merchants, many of whom have been holding their breath waiting for the arrival of the Gold Line, the potential for new upscale customers living nearby is a welcome benefit.
That benefit would be greater if the apartments were for-sale units or condos that tend to attract more long-term residents. But changes in the construction defect laws have effectively made it impossible to build new condos in Colorado. Hence Park Place will be entirely rental units with a population that could see a substantial annual turnover. Legislative relief for that situation seems to be at least a year away — if not much longer.
[copy edits 27 April 2014]
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6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association.