(Editor’s note: CityScene is taking some time off for a vacation, this article originally appeared on July 28.)
By Kevin Collison
The former Screenland property at 17th and Washington is about to become a foodie oasis, its parking lot replaced with a landscaped courtyard and stage, and the surrounding level hosting a restaurant, bar and market.
Denver developer Ken Wolf, who recently purchased several buildings in downtown and the West Bottoms, wants to transform the gateway property between the Crossroads and Westside into a destination.
“I want to active this corner with hospitality,” Wolf said. “The first level off the courtyard will likely include a bakery, market, sandwich place, bar and full-service restaurant with a possible rooftop patio.”
Wolf recently purchase the 47,000 square-foot, three-level building at 1656 Washington that once housed the Screenland theater for $3.7 million. He plans to spend $3 million to renovate the lower retail level and bring the upper floor office space to first-class status.
He also has signed a lease with the Green Leaf Massage + Day Spa for half the third floor, leaving about 20,000 square-feet available for lease. Three Dog Bakery, a current tenant, plans to remain.
The property, which once housed an ice-making factory and cold-storage warehouse, is represented by Aron Real Estate. It was redeveloped as the Screenland Theatre in 2004. The theater relocated to 1701 McGee in 2015.
Wolf was a big player in redeveloping the RiNo area of downtown Denver, and fell in love with the Crossroads awhile ago scouting it for a potential sushi restaurant.
His other acquisitions include 1532 Grand, where he’s planning a restaurant and pool hall called Gerard’s at The Belfry, and the former Architectural Salvage building at 335 Southwest Blvd. where artist studios, office space and retail is planned.
While Kansas City’s relatively inexpensive real estate is a big draw, Wolf said he has no intention of introducing Denver-style rent inflation to downtown. He also described himself as a preservationist.
“I didn’t come here to try to create Denver rates,” he said.
“I’m paying much less for what I would for buildings in Denver. At the same time, my rent rates will be the same as the current market.”
And while downtown Kansas City is seeing substantial reinvestment after decades of neglect, Wolf believes it won’t experience the skyrocketing real estate market that’s made Denver infamous.
“The reason it won’t become Denver is you have so many old buildings here to renovate,” he said. “The demand will never outpace the supply.”
The architect for what’s tentatively called Washington Plaza is collins|webb of Lee’s Summit and the contractor is Axis.
The plan calls for the parking lot to be replaced with a landscaped courtyard with seating, a grassy area and a performance stage. The large space where the Screenland theater once operated is where the full-service restaurant is planned.
The north wing of the ground floor is intended to house the bar, market and other food-related uses. One of Wolf’s projects in the RiNo neighborhood was the popular Denver Central Market.
Wolf intends to have the Washington Plaza project completed by the end of this year.
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