Creative Denver group wants ’40s-inspired motel and bar to replace vacant West Colfax gas station

One couple knows how to take old Denver buildings and make them new inside. The other couple knows West Colfax — and Vaudeville.

4200 W. Colfax Ave. Nov. 8, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

4200 W. Colfax Ave. Nov. 8, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

An old West Colfax gas station may soon get a new life as a throwback to some of West Colfax’s original flavor — as a ’40s and ’50s-inspired motel with a pool and a bar.

“No new buildings, kind of in line with what I like to do with converting and saving stuff,” said Danny Newman, who’s part of the team behind the project, and is in fact becoming a bit of an old hand at this kind of thing.

Newman owns My Brother’s Bar, one of Denver’s oldest, after buying it from the longtime owners. He also bought an old Greek Orthodox church on 6th Ave., which had been used most recently by an Ethiopian Orthodox congregation, in 2015 and turned the interior into two residences while preserving the building. Before that, he converted an old Masonic lodge in Villa Park into what Apartment Therapy called a “burrito factory fun house.”

The area around the 4200 W. Colfax Ave. gas station site has been undergoing fairly rapid change for years. For a lot of folks, the Alamo Drafthouse — across the street from the gas station property — is one of the most visible new destinations. Little Man Creamery is soon slated to open just a few blocks to the west.

BusinessDen reported that Newman’s 4200 W Colfax LLC bought the property last month. He and his wife Christy Kruzick are working with another creative couple, Cole and Mike Huling, on the project. The Hulings are some of the minds behind Handsome Little Devils, an art and entertainment troupe that performs Vaudeville and circus acts here and nationally.

“We are in love with vintage culture and retro culture,” Cole Huling said. “We are swing dancers, we grew up at the Mercury Cafe. And so the ’40s-’50s culture is an era that we really love. But also we’re all from Denver and when we think of Colfax, we think of neon signs and old motels and motorists going through Denver and to the mountains on this road, and we want to do a callback to that.”

She said the initial plan — and, by the way, this is all very, very preliminary — is to have just two rentable rooms onsite, and to create a quirky, artsy, neighborhoody vibe at the bar.

“We would like our property to be the first inkling that you’re headed for the 40 West Arts District,” she said. “We do plan to incorporate as much art as we can get away with. We want to build a really beautiful, iconic space so that if you see a postcard of it you’ll know exactly where it is in Denver.”

The Hulings know the area well — not only have they lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade, they perform a free monthly show at the Alamo Drafthouse bar, BarFly, called the Devils’ Workshop. (The next one is next Wed., Nov. 14, if you want some Vaudeville in your life immediately.)

The group met with the board of West Colfax Association of Neighbors — WeCAN — this week, and said they’ve also talked to the West Colfax Business Improvement District and City Councilman Rafael Espinoza, and they say feedback has been positive.

“The thing is, what they’re proposing is unique, and that’s good,” Espinoza said. “My biggest concern was that the zone district won’t necessarily accommodate what they were thinking.” He added that he’s happy to work with them on the project.

“One of the things that we want,” Huling said, “is to create a place where neighbors are walking through the neighborhood and they see each other hanging out on the patio … and they get to catch up. Those places are lacking in West Colfax.”

Cleanup work on the current gas station site has started, but to do the project the way they want, the group will need to be able to rezone an adjacent plot that would become the new project’s yard, which Huling said could eventually be home to events. Newman said that a “dream” launch date would be summer of 2019 — but there’s much to do between here and there.

Denverite reporter David Sachs contributed to this report.