Neighborhood Activists Would Rather Preserve Tom's Diner Than Let Its Owner Retire in Peace

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.

In their 30-plus page application to the city, these activists argued that Messina's restaurant—first built in 1967 as part of the now-extinct White Spots restaurant chain—is a classic example of mid-century Googie architecture and thus worthy of protection.

The same application notes that seven White Spot restaurants were built in the Denver-area in the 1960s. Three of them are still standing, including another one on the same avenue as Messina's restaurant. Nevertheless, these preservationists argue that Messina's building is a particularly good example of Googie tilted roofs and expansive glass windows.

These same activists note that a 2008/2009 survey marked Tom's Diner as eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and the Historic Denver Guidebook includes an entry on the building.

In a July 16 report, city planning staff recommended that Messina's building be given landmark status. The following week, the city's Landmark Preservation Commission, at a public hearing where Messina pleaded with them to leave his property alone, voted unanimously to recommend landmarking the restaurant. The landmark application now goes to the city council, which will make a final determination.

Messina describes that decision as "kick in the gut." The value he might lose from a landmark designation, he says, would jeopardize the retirement he's worked so hard for.

"I'm sure people can imagine how it would feel," he tells Reason. "You plan for something and you think it's yours to do as you wish and then this pops up."

In the run-up to the city council's decision, preservation activists have said they want to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement that will allow Messina to sell his building while saving the building aesthetic they value so much.

"We met with Tom today to present him with some creative and viable solutions. We know this is a life-changing opportunity for him, which is why our focus is on a solution that meets his needs and protects the identity and history of the Colfax corridor," Jessica Caouette, one of the five people who signed onto the landmarking application, said in a statement posted to her Facebook page last week.

Messina says that he's had several meetings with activists where they've presented him with alternate designs for his property that would have apartments go on the vacant parts of his lot while leaving the current restaurant structure intact.

But building only on the 60 percent of his land unoccupied by the diner, says Messina, would still greatly reduce its value. And that's assuming he could even find a developer who'd be willing to build what activists are looking for.

In addition to the personal cost this would visit on Messina, it would also deprive Denver—which is rapidly becoming one of the country's most expensive cities—of additional housing.

The city council is scheduled to discuss the landmark application for Messina's property next week and will vote on whether to grant it later in the month.

Using historic landmark designations to prevent unwanted development is not uncommon, and is often done over the objections of the property owner in question. Similar cases include the Strand bookstore in New York City and the fight over the Showbox concert venue in Seattle.

For Messina, the issue boils down to the fact that this is his building, and he should get to decide what happens to it, not a city council or neighborhood activists. He tells Reason "that something I've worked for my entire life could be decided this way is very unsettling."

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  1. Does this amount to seizure of his property?
    It seems he has a pretty good case that his property, ready to be sold for nearly $5 million, faced a substantial decrease in value due to direct, targeted government action.
    It seems the historical preservation society, the city, or whatnot should compensate him for his loss.

    1. Generally no, because it doesn't deprive him of all economically viable uses for the property which is the general standard in these kinds of cases.

      Unfortunately, should and will are likely to be very far apart.

      1. He's got a deal with a price tag on it. That should be evidence enough of its true market value. Government stole the land value. He's entitled.

        But he has learned. Next time set a match to the building before the NIMBYs get wise to the sale. Save the new owners the trouble of tearing it down.

        1. Yeah, I was thinking that, too. Alternatively, does the law prevent him from moving the building? Probably huh. And that would cost what? More than he's selling for?
          It's total bullshit, of course. It's obviously a "taking" as the writers of the constitution would have viewed it.

          1. Alternatively, does the law prevent him from moving the building?

            That's the sort of advocacy that should be on that commission. Not so much that it is up to him to move/preserve the building. More - that if some neighbors really want that building preserved then THEY should pay the cost for either moving or preserving it. Said cost being not only the difference in market value but the lower prop taxes over time that the city is supposed to forego.

            Unfortunately I suspect that sort of payment via prop tax rates is illegal here in CO.

        2. There's always time for an accident to happen. "Oops, I guess I forgot to properly clean the fume hoods for a few years. Silly me. Good thing it caught fire in the middle of the night when we had no customers. Such a shame, though, right?"

          1. I really hope he does that. and laughs in the faces of the a-hole meddling scumbags.

          2. It would be awesome if there were a gas leak so that the entire building is blown to pieces such that it is impossible to rebuild the "historic" structure.

        3. I was thinking he'd be better off burning down the building. The developer would probably be tearing it down anyway.

        4. I agree, but there's so many buttinsky liberals who think their valuing something that someone else owns, gives them a say in how that property is used.

          Of course, the right answer is that the buttinskies need to pony up their own money to buy the building. And when they find they don't have the time to run that business or maintain it, they can pocket the loss in value. Which would be a good lesson for them.

          And it's unfortunate our government has appointed buttinskies into positions to allow the government to do it at other peoples' expense, resulting the abomination of the SCOTUS Kelo ruling. You can count on the political class, to disregard, disrespect, and ignore the limits for government specified in the constitution. Sadly even Trump agrees with Kelo.

          1. Preservation is a conservative thing. Fear of change. Liberals are not the problem in this case.

            1. This is not conservative or liberal. Messina owns the property and the government wants to preserve it without compensating him for taking it. The government gives him 4.8 million for the property and he rides into the sunset.

              1. If The People, in their infinite wisdom, want to preserve it, they should pay for it, if it's so important.

          2. I agree, but there’s so many buttinsky liberals who think their valuing something that someone else owns, gives them a say in how that property is used.

            What you described is the opposite of "liberal".

            Use words properly. The fact that idiot progressives are too dumb to do so is no excuse.

        5. Messina should have sent Moose and Rocko to go talk to the people blocking him.


        6. YES!!

          F these meddling shtbags. they are the worst.

        7. Better to take a wrecking ball to it after he gets the buyer's blessing. No insurance claim, just a bit of urban renewal.

        8. The government stole the land alright - from the indigenous population, the Arapaho tribe who were forcefully removed after the Sand Creek Massacre, in order to redistribute it to invading migrants from Europe.

          1. As trolls go not a bad effort, skippy. We'll give it a B-.

      2. Generally no, because it doesn’t deprive him of all economically viable uses for the property which is the general standard in these kinds of cases.

        Removing a portion of his property (the building) and replacing it with something more profitable seems to be an economically viable use.

        1. Yes, that's an economically viable use, and probably the most economically viable use. But keeping it running as a diner, or selling it to someone who will, are also an economically viable uses. The current state of the law is that it's not a taking unless the regulation deprives you of virtually all economically viable uses. In other words, unless the regulation rendered your land worthless, it's not a taking.

          Things are different if the government actually takes your land or occupies it.

          1. Thanks for the reply. Can't say I'm really surprised.
            Can you cite where you found this?
            Was this a circuit, state or national decision?
            I'd be interested to see the reasoning.

            1. Lucas v South Carolina Coastal Council. Extension of Penn Central v New York City. All part of the Court's garbage takings jurisprudence. Could get better in coming years depending on Gorsuch and Kavanaugh (not confident on Kavanaugh).

          2. In other words, unless the regulation rendered your land worthless, it’s not a taking.

            Not a criticism of you, but that seems ridiculous. Technically, any property has some economically viable use. Even if it's just as a parking lot. Who decides what an economically viable use is?

            1. Understood, and I agree it's ridiculous. The regulations are presumed to be constitutional, so it's up to the property owner to prove that there aren't any economically viable uses left in court, which is a very difficult thing to do. It's been awhile since I read it, but I believe the property owner in Lucas won because he bought the property to eventually build a beachfront house, but the regulations changed prohibited any development of his beachfront property at all--he couldn't even pave over paradise to put up a parking lot, leaving him with an essentially worthless parcel of land.

              1. Want to see some fun takings fights in the near future? Florida Keys regulations created back in the 70s or 80s mean that, in the next 2 years or so, any undeveloped land will be stuck that way. Even the state and county are starting to set aside (likely meager) sums to deal with the takings lawsuits.

                1. Sound like a big payday ahead for land use lawyers. The one danger is that people who purchased land after the regulations went into effect might be considered to have had notice. If I bought it late, I'd probably be rushing to get something up right now.

          3. It depends on the status as a historical landmark and what is included. If it is only the external structure and renovation internally is allowed then it might continue to be economically viable although even that is questionable because of the expenses for maintaining the outside let alone issues like HVAC repair/replacement, electrical, security/fire alarm systems, etc. All those issues which require external improvements to maintain city/State/federal code for that particular type of structure.

      3. The partial taking of rights to a building does remove the economic viability. Appraisers and most court definitions of market value use the term “The most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby". Thus the property with the historic status will no longer be the most probable price. Difference before (contract) and after outdated and smaller parcel value will be a check to be issued by the city. If in my state I would want to be on the owner's side team.

      4. Burn it. It’s your property. Clear everyone out. Set fire to it. Sell it. Take your retirement.

        As you drive off flip everyone the finger.

    2. I've said it before, and I'll say it again:Government fucks EVERYTHING UP, and not for the good of the people, but for the government's own good. Cut government at ALL LEVELS by at least 50%.

      1. Shit, merely suggesting cutting government by 0.1% is enough to send everyone running for the fainting couches. Not even a 0.01% cut is considered politically viable, but dangerously radical instead. By both colors.

        1. Hell, a significant cut in the rate of increase is pretty much a non-starter.

          1. Sooner than later, real Americans will have to force the issue.

            1. Well, that precludes your involvement.

              I almost hope you get what you want, though, simply because you'll be the first against the wall (I know you imagine it otherwise, but you're a fool).

      2. This is entirely about existing landowners/professionals using govt as a vehicle for them to achieve personal (either money or professional) goals. Govt itself doesn't gain anything from this. In fact it loses a LOT of future property taxes.

        The Landmark Preservation Commission that is ruling on this is actually open (like most of these sorts of commissions - and prob not just here in Denver) to anyone to be nominated/serve. But like most of that sort of thing in a world where no one gets involved and esp in a city where everyone is new, the only people who volunteer are those with a vested interest. So its 5 architects, 2 history types, and 2 city govt types (one of whom is an architect).

        This is less about NIMBY (there's little 'neighborhood' opposition/involement here) than it is about constipated people who don't want change and who have their own vision of stasis and either don't care or don't understand what that costs. Rather than architects being merely one important source of input to this sort of commission, it's become their playtoy.

        1. "But like most of that sort of thing in a world where no one gets involved and esp in a city where everyone is new, the only people who volunteer are those with a vested interest."

          Indeed. That's one of the basic problems with all of these kinds of things, public and private. The people most likely to get involved are the people who think the commission's mission is important. It's hard to convince people who don't to spend the kind of time it takes to be a member.

          1. I wish we'd spend more time figuring out how to avoid that dynamic. Cuz you're right - it's gonna happen cuz it's natural. And regardless of one's politics, this is exactly how regulatory capture and corruption and cronyism and special interests and lobbying end up creating the worst of all worlds. Where we use govt as a vehicle against others when it suits us - and get pissed off that others use it against us when it suits them.

      3. "The general upshot of my observations, however, was to show me that whether in the hands of Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat, and whether under nominal constitutionalism, republicanism or autocracy, the mechanism of the State would work freely and naturally in but one direction, namely, against the general welfare of the people.

        "Albert Jay Nock, "Anarchists' Progress" (1927)

    3. Yes, absolutely. This is a "taking" which the 5th amendment forbids without just compensation.

      As for Jessica Caouette, that self-righteous, power hungry bitch can go fuck herself sideways with a full-grown saguaro.


      1. Her shop is a full 7 blocks away from Tom's according to almighty Google. Apparently you get to file a claim on property almost a full mile away from your own. It's not the property next door. It's not the property across the street. It's not a property even visible from The Denver Bicycle Cafe.

      2. It absolutely is, but the Court would rule it isn't as it has in Lucas and Penn Central.

        1. I don't believe the current Court would. I believe it would do a "Citizens United" on this deal.

      3. Light up Jessica Caouette’s Facebook page.

        1. A late night visit by Moose and Rocko to have a ‘conversation’ could straighten out a lot of things.

      4. Anyone want to find out how many of the 5 people that signed on to this bullshit are originally from California?

    4. Basic rule: Always get a demolition permit first.

    5. I don't care what's legal. What must happen is doing the right thing. Designate it historical if you want but the city must compensate him for the decrease in property value.

      1. All I k ow is busybodies like these people tend to go away after a quick ‘trip’ down the stairs. Though sometimes they need a little ‘push’.

    6. I don't see how forbidding certain uses of a property after the fact isn't a taking. But apparently courts dont' agree with me since historic preservation committees do this shit all the time.

      If you want to preserve historic buildings, great. Get enough money to buy the properties and you can do whatever you want.

      I also find the whole historic preservation thing kind of absurd. I'm all for preserving interesting and historic things, but it's gotten to the point where it seems like some people want the whole world to be a museum. Cities have been torn down and rebuilt over and over for millennia. Now for some reason we decide that the last iteration of that process is something that must be preserved forever.
      A handful of examples of 50s diners is probably enough. We don't need all of them forever.

      1. "I don’t see how forbidding certain uses of a property after the fact isn’t a taking. But apparently courts dont’ agree with me since historic preservation committees do this shit all the time."

        One problem is that basic zoning regulations do this all the time, and courts don't want to make cities liable every time a zoning regulation decreases property values. While this is individualized and not a result of a general zoning plan, the arguments in favor of compensation are largely the same.

        1. It shouldn't be the Court's business to protect city councils from the effects of their regulations.

    7. How many of the knuckleheads on the “Preservation Committee” have ever actually eaten in Tom’s?

      1. I hope they all show up and get poisoned. and their misery lasts for years.

        1. Or ends decisively in few hours.

    8. Nothing historic about this building. It butt ugly. Sue the city and preservation group if you have to. I'm damn tired of these activists sticking their nose where it doesn't belong!

    9. It’s so sad to watch, in real time, how the Left and their smarmy snobbishness is destroying people’s lives. Has anyone looked at the garish monstrosity of a building we are talking about? The McDonalds/Pizza Huts have , thankfully , already demolished hundreds of these buildings. We do not need more examples for future archeologists to laugh at us.

  2. If a group wants to make something that doesn't belong to them a historic landmark, they should be willing to pay the difference in lost property value to the owner of that property.

    1. Until you realize everything belongs to the state...

      1. At the 2012 DNC convention, the democrats declared that ‘government is the only thing we all belong to’.


        1. They want to own all of us. The 13th Amendment was passed without Democrats, and they still don't like it.

  3. There's a very simple solution to this (other than just letting him do what he wants with his building, which would be super). He wants to sell, but if the city counsel designates his restaurant as a historic landmark can't because of its value to the community. If that happens, the city should use its power of eminent domain and pay him fair market value--$4.8 million. Then the city can sell the property to someone who wants to run it as a diner.

    Of course, this won't happen because leaches like Jessica Caouette don't want to pay for the supposed benefits of historic landmarks.

    1. "If that happens, the city should use its power of eminent domain and pay him fair market value–$4.8 million."

      That wouldn't be fair to the taxpayers who don't want to buy an expensive restaurant. Let the people who want it pay for it.

      1. I believe the Landmark Commission is a local agency created by the Denver city government. The taxpayers voted for the city council who is making the decision. The taxpayers should be on the hook for the result of their decisions.

        1. "The taxpayers voted for the city council who is making the decision."

          I would be willing to bet there are a fair number of taxpayers who didn't vote for the city council. Let the people who want the building buy it.

          1. Nope, the tax payers should be on the hook, even the ones who didn't vote. Make people aware of the consequences of their action/inaction.

            1. Yup. Why else would anything change? Right now "the people" get the benefits of historical preservation while individuals bear almost all of the costs. Until "the people" have to start footing the costs, it's a great deal for them.

          2. ""Let the people who want the building buy it.""

            Yes, but if city council decides to prevent that, then the city should be on the hook for it.

            1. Exactly. Takings are only constitutional if they satisfy just compensation, defined as the commercial value of the property at the time of the taking, NOT AFTERWARD.

          3. I would be willing to bet there are a fair number of taxpayers who didn’t vote for the city council.

            The Denver city council now has a fucking commie piece of shit sitting on it (Candi CdeBaca, one of those Hispanic "activists" who bitch about gentrification and think their shitty, can't-keep-up barrio should remain an ethnic enclave forever, but would have a stroke if redlining was ever brought back). The previous council was actually relatively development-friendly, but I suspect there's nothing the current council would love more than to fuck this guy over.

            1. District 9 was a great movie. Five Points in Denver sucks. But I thought the gays were moving in and gentrifying it. I buy zone valves from a place in that district, go there a couple three times a year. Better than it used to be, but still the Baltimore of Denver.

              1. Most of the gentrification is from gays and singles, but even the small number of families moving in has affected things. A couple years ago, I read about the school administrators and PTAs in the Highlands area having to deal with upper middle class white parents getting on their asses about having such crappy schools in the area. It hasn't been a huge increase (North High, for instance, is at double-digit white kids for the first time since 2004), but these school officials aren't used to having people that actually give a shit about their kids' education holding them to account. The huge number of immigrant Hispanic kids allowed them to sit back and give lip service to making things better without having to actually do anything.

                It's not really an accident that so many charter schools have popped up in the shittier parts of Denver the last 5-10 years.

              2. When did Baltimore pass Detroit as the baseline for horribleness?

                1. When Detroit couldn't get any worse, Baltimore was able to catch up.

          4. "Government is simply the name we give to the things we force on the unsuspecting and unwilling."

            1. Government is simply a name we give to things we do together that we don’t want to admit are gangsterism.

              1. I'm stealing that. Is that gangsterism, if I attribute it?

              2. Maybe it’s time to take out the progressive gang. In one big hit. Godfather style montage as all accounts are simultaneously settled.

                1. What you're talking about is civil war.

                  I know in your fantasy, the "other side" are a bunch of limp-wristed sissies who would shrink into a ball at the first sign of force, leaving you free to achieve your murderous goals overnight, but in reality there are plenty of folks with plenty of guns -- many of whom are far more competent than you, I suspect -- who will take the side of the status quo. Given what you want, many of those will even be conservatives. The people you hate so much control much (though thankfully not all) of government. You think they will lose all of that control because what? Trump?

                  Even if you had your way exactly it would be evil. But you won't. No, it would be bloody civil war. And we have enough evidence of how those turn out to say with confidence that it would destroy the American economy (and with it, do immeasurable harm to the American way of life) like nothing seen since the Reconstruction.

                  Do you really think anyone will want to be developing on Tom Messina's property after you get your civil war? Or are you just pretending to care, as you place your fucking feelz above all else?

      2. Nothing is ever fair to the taxpayers. But if they are going to take away the value of the property, they need to pay.

        I'm with you, though. If you want to preserve historic buildings, found a private historic preservation group, raise money from voluntary donations and preserve away!

      3. The taxpayers don't have standing on this issue. Only the property owner (read, victim) and the government do.

  4. "In their 30-plus page application to the city, these activists argued that Messina's restaurant—first built in 1967 as part of the now-extinct White Spots restaurant chain—is a classic example of mid-century Googie architecture and thus worthy of protection."

    Then they should buy it. Does $4.8 million sound about right?

    1. Yup. If they like it so much, they can buy it. Tom might even be willing to take $4.7 million if they negotiate.

    2. Why would anyone want to preserve something called "Googie" architecture?

  5. "We met with Tom today to present him with some creative and viable solutions."

    Did they say that in a New Jersey/Sicilian accent?

    1. "Nice little Googie-style restaurant ya got there, Tom. Be a shame if NOTHING HAPPENED TO IT."

    2. Odd that one of Jessica Caouette's creative and viable solutions wasn't to buy the building for $4.7 million and implement the creative and viable solution herself. Seems like it should be a real opportunity for her.

    3. I wonder if the "creative and viable solution" involves selling the site at a steep discount to Jessica Caouette for a second location of "Denver Bicycle Cafe"...

  6. I feel like a little gasoline and an unwitting smoker might help out. But they'd probably make the guy pay to rebuild exactly as was before being able to sell.

  7. Always start a grease fire before making public deals.

    1. Oh see, that's smart. Grease fire. If the building burned down in the middle of the night, everyone would know it was arson. Grease fire during business hours is much more believable.

      1. Well it's 24-7, so...

  8. "We met with Tom today to present him with some creative and viable solutions. We know this is a life-changing opportunity for him, which is why our focus is on a solution that meets his needs and protects the identity and history of the Colfax corridor," Jessica Caouette, one of the five people who signed onto the landmarking application, said in a statement posted to her Facebook page last week.

    Translation: your financial well-being is not our concern, be happy with scraps.

    1. Yes, Jessica Caouette is a horrible person who knows the damage she is inflicting on Tom and his family but just doesn't care.

    2. Tom's a saint to have left that meeting not in police custody.

      1. Nah, instead he should pay Moose and Rocko to have an ‘off the record’ meeting with this woman. Then it would go away in a day or two.

  9. So the lesson here is if you buy a building with unusual architecture, knock it down before some self righteous bastard gets ideas about it.

  10. Gorgeous piece of architecture; It sure would be a shame if a grease fire burnt the entire place down.

    1. “Gosh Ms. Caouette, that sure is a nice coratid artery you’ve got there. Sure would be a shame if it accidentally got severed”.

    2. That's a matter of taste. It looks ridiculous to me.

  11. Just burn it down. Fuck your identity. Fuck your history. You don't matter. It's not your property, so get bent.

  12. It's only fitting -- Colfax was a pretty corrupt Vice-President.

  13. I am big believer in historic preservation. The problem is everything is ruined by activists and little old ladies in tennis shoes. Somehow we have gone from the horror of losing Penn Station and taking efforts to ensure other landmarks were not bulldozed to preserving greasy spoon diners and laundromats. Our society can't do anything without falling into a ditch.

    1. """Somehow we have gone from the horror of losing Penn Station...""

      Grand Central?

      We just traded the old (historic) post office for the new Penn Station.

      1. No. Penn Station. Penn Station was a beaux arts masterpiece of a building that was torn down and replaced by the good awful underground Penn Station and the even worse New Madison Square Garden.

      2. The demolition of Penn Station in the early 60s lead to the historic preservation movement.

        1. Nerd 😉

          1. Hey. That's "nerdule" to YOU, bud.

    2. It says something about how American architecture has degenerated that we went from preserving blocks and buildings inspired by neo-Classicism, to trying to keep kitchy California-style crap from the late 60s and early 70s from being demolished.

      The irony is that what would probably go up in its place is some multi-unit eyesore that looked like it was designed by IKEA, which isn't any better from an aesthetic standpoint (a lot of these barf-inducing hipster structures have been going up like weeds the last 5-10 years). Disposable architecture for a disposable society.

      1. I really don't mind the architecture of the new apartments on Colfax.

      2. No accounting for taste.

        I'm sure at some point what we consider Classical architecture was seen as a vulgar and ostentatious change from whatever came before it.

        1. No, that was the whole point of the City Beautiful movement in Denver, actually.

    3. Because 'our society' gives undue deference to progressive idiots.

  14. Oh, he thought the diner belonged to him.

    1. The dinner belongs to the ages Paul.

      1. Which ages? I'm turning 50 tomorrow, does that count?

  15. "Three of them are still standing, including another one on the same avenue as Messina's restaurant."

    I can imagine that in the next month or so there will be a story that those three have burned down as their owners realize the importance of avoiding Messina's fate.

  16. " preservation activists have said they want to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement that will allow Messina to sell his building while saving the building aesthetic they value so much."

    Beat/match the developer's $4,800,000 offer or sit down and shut up.

    1. This.

  17. For many years, Colfax was most known for its strip clubs and hookers. Do the historic preservation people want those brought back as well? That is real historic Colfax.

    1. I, for one, would prefer not to see any historic strippers as of present day.

      1. Bring the old girls back. We must preserve the past.

        1. Built a prostitution museum like Amsterdam.


          Me, I'd just head straight for the gift shop.

        2. Wouldn't they be a little old now?

    2. Those never left. Many parts of Colfax Ave, especially down town, are still shit holes. Not Baltimore level shit holes, but still.

      1. West Colfax is arguably in worse shape than the eastern half these days, although that's just a matter of degree.

        1. Well, in all fairness, Golden Mills had it's roof destroyed by a blizzard, that crazy truck thing happened at I 70 and colfax, and all the graveyards out that way are haunted...

    3. The funny thing is that when it was called The White Spot, it was colloquially known as "the candy store" because so many people bought drugs from their dealers there. There isn't anything really "historic" about it, other than a couple of generations of Denverites stopped to eat there at 3 am after binge-drinking at the clubs.

      I used to take the bus down Colfax nearly in the mid-90s, and just about every day, it was like visiting the Island of Dr. Moreau.

      1. White Spots? So, it's racist - bull doze it and Move On.

  18. I've eaten in Tom's Diner, and its a good place to eat.
    But a historic monument?
    Get real.
    Only an idiot from hell would believe that.

    1. Tom's Diner, like the White Spot in Downtown Denver is where all the kids would go after they got tired of hanging around at Paris OTP or Muddy's. It was so ironic and cool. The scent of clove cigs and coffee breath could be cut with a knife.

      It is unfortunate that highschoolers are getting crowded out by bars and apartments, but at the same time, those kids (us) mostly just took up table space, hassling the wait staff and splitting a side order of fries. It was inevitable that they would go away.

    2. Oh, they don't believe it. They're just pretending to, so that they can squeeze the owner or the buyer for money to fuck off.


  19. Neighborhood Activists Would Rather Preserve Tom's Diner Than Let Its Owner Retire in Peace

    Suzanne Vega hardest hit.

  20. Maybe if they appointed him the curator of the historic site at a salary of a million bucks a year?

    Just kidding, the whole point is that these preservationists don't want to spend their own money on their hobby, but hand the bill to the landowner they're trying to screw over.

    The thing which the Founding Persons thought they had forbidden. But that was, like, 100 years ago.

    1. The thing which the Founding Persons thought they had forbidden. But that was, like, 100 years ago.

      Plus they were a bunch of slave owning straight white males.

      1. Straight? With those outfits?

    2. Just compensation. They didn't forbid it, but attached a specific condition to it.

      Just compensation = market value


  21. But building only on the 60 percent of his land unoccupied by the diner, says Messina, would still greatly reduce its value.

    How's this for a compromise: the activist fucks can have the building declared a historic landmark, but they have to pony up the difference in value from their own pockets. That sounds fair to me. I mean, if these busybody fuckwits really care so much about preserving "historic landmarks" let them put their money where their mouth is or STFU.

    1. Woah, woah, woah. They can't possibly afford to pay. Not with their own money. Not with rents as high as they are. Besides, they aren't doing this for themselves. They're doing it for the children, or the community or some such.

      1. They're doing it for their own diseased ideology and its attendant narcissism.

    2. If the council approves it, the council is culpable and a legitimate target for a lawsuit. The activists, legally, would be out of the picture.

  22. Serious question:
    What if he worked with Alberta Company and they just knock the building down right now? Then there's nothing to argue over. It's his building and land, right?
    What would be the consequences? The historic group is trying to block the sale. But if you take down the building before the sale....
    OK, so you probably need permits for that. What if a bulldozer accidentally runs into it?

    1. It is a restaurant, and grease fires are known to happen...

    2. Then the preservationist society would be suing to force him to rebuild the restaurant exactly as it was before the fire, using only materials from the appropriate period and local union labor. And he'd have to do an environmental assessment beforehand too.

  23. "as part of the now-extinct White Spots restaurant chain"

    Sounds like it was a racist joint - burn it down in a riot, and save the poor guy the trouble

    1. Maybe he could start a rumor Trump ate there once?

      1. I've actually been told it's a perfectly legitimate tactic to burn minority-owned businesses in protest against white racism.

      2. I think it's also a favorite restaurant of Denver PD officers. And I'm pretty sure it was a meeting spot for the KKK back in the '70s.

        There, that should do the trick.

        1. Yep, that and some permanent, gigantic concrete letters spelling "TRUMPBURGERS" in the parking lot. Coz those preservationists always love them some Brutalist architecture.

      3. If trump visited it now, and the owner made it a shrine to "The Donald", I'll bet every one of those "activist" cunts would turn on a dime and demand its destruction like it was a statue of Robert E. Lee.


        1. Interesting (and cogent) observation.

  24. If these busybody activists want to prevent the restaurant from being torn down, rather than preventing him from selling the property to a developer, they should offer him the cost of what the developer was willing to pay. Otherwise, they should put up or shut up.

  25. Are there any members of a city council who are NOT complete a**holes? Maybe some small North Dakota town with a local government consisting of a dog and an 8 year old?

  26. Today in Denver news 5 historic preservationists have gone missing.

  27. It seems he has a firm $4.8M offer for a use that the property is zoned for. I suggest the preservationists raise $4.8M and buy the property. Perhaps they can sell it, with deed restrictions on demolishing the diner, to someone for less -- or, perhaps not. But, that's their problem.

    Wouldn't it be a damned shame if he just shut it down, boarded it up, and somehow inadvertently shut off the sprinkler system while leaving the gas and electricity on, and there was a gas leak and it exploded and burned down one evening? That would, indeed be tragic. (Almost as tragic as boating accidents where firearms fall to the bottom of the ocean shortly before the seizure order comes down.)

    1. If these ninnies succeed, he has a colorable action to recoup the difference between the current commercial offer and the property's reduced value after takings.

      Plus legal expenses.

  28. Local real estate and land use laws — rent control, tenants rights, historic preservation etc — are all about removing ownership rights from the actual, money-paying owners and transferring them to nonowners. Why plunk down your own money when you can use the force of government to mandate your results?

  29. Denver to Tom Messina: You didn't build that!

  30. I'd like to think that Jessica Caouette lives in a nice place. A uniquely nice place. An historically uniquely nice place. Jessica Caouette better not have any plans for redecorating her historically uniquely nice place. Like changing the curtains, the lightbulbs or the toilet paper roll.

      1. Always impressive when someone misspells words in an online résumé.

        "all of the prior jobs and current educational experience have lead me to a wide range of knowledge about opening a small business"

        1. She majored in anthropology. She's a freaking moron.

  31. You know, Denver used to be a pretty nice city until all these people moved here. The whole Front Range, actually. They ruin their home states with idiotic progressive laws, then move because the state now sucks. But, have they learnt anything? Not a single thing. They proceed to start voting for the exact same idiotic policies in their new state, and ruin it, too. I had to go to Oklahoma for what, 3 years? Maybe 4? Anyways, when I got back, the rent had literally doubled.
    I mean, Denver was always fairly liberal compared to the rest of the state, but, jesus, these people are even turning Colorado Springs into a purple city. I grew up in the Springs, and let me tell you, turning it anything other than deep red takes some doing.

    1. Colorado is quickly becoming a lot like Washington or Oregon--one particular area, in this case, the Front Range, completely dominates the politics of the rest of the state.

    2. The rent going up us from cannabis legalization.

  32. This is a diner, not an Opera House. I don't think anyone is choosing to travel to Denver for the purpose of eating at Tom's Diner. I am sure the neighbors have nostalgia for friendly gatherings at the diner, but the new construction could include a diner on the first floor (since having a diner seems to be popular in the neighborhood). As I have many family members in the area, Denver does need more housing.

    1. Doesn't matter what type of structure it is, it is private property and according to the Constitution, cannot be taken for public use "without just compensation" - typically determined via market prices....

  33. John Galt pays visits to guys like this for less.

  34. Your first mistake is thinking you own your property. The state does. Don't believe me? Stop paying them.

  35. F$ck you and your property rights! The People's Civic Preservation Society has decided your property will be subject to our wishes!

    Exactly how is this and similar involuntary takings not a violation of the 5th Amendment?

    I'd have respect for preservation groups if they acted by outbidding developers for these "historic" properties. Out and out theft, not so much...

    1. It's not a violation because FYTW.

  36. In the run-up to the city council's decision, preservation activists have said they want to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement that will allow Messina to sell his building while saving the building aesthetic they value so much.

    The only equitable deal is for the preservationists to pay him the full sale price: if they like having the business there, they can run it.

    1. Yup. Jessica Caouette swears that there are creative solutions out there, but somehow is unwilling to put her money on the line to make them happen. Jessica Caouette is a leech.

  37. Is there anything that readers can do to make sure the government doesn't seize this guys diner?

    1. "The landmark application now goes to the city council, which will make a final determination."

      If you live in Denver, you can show up for the city council meeting.

  38. Let this be a lesson to all small business owners who also own the property on which they operate: Renovate often and thoroughly. Change the facade and interior significantly each time.

    1. Also, if you're buying an older property with intent to start a new business there, make approval of renovation permits a contingency on the sale.

  39. At least it's not an historic laundromat.

  40. The developer offered 4 million and was going to tear down the building?

    Time for a grease fire......

  41. You've been flipping flap jacks and busting your ass your whole life and then when you want to sell your property for a really decent price and retire in comfort, a bunch of people who don't own the land, want to steal your land because they like the building? Fuck! What happened to the Land of the Free? It's all legislation now for stupid, control freak, petty people. Denver is already a fucking city. It isn't some significant historical building that people can't live without really. If they want to keep the damn design, build a identical replica using your land and YOUR fucking money!!!

  42. Or, YOU legislators, buy the fucking building itself and a fucking lot somewhere in Denver and YOU pay to move the fucking thing there yourself before it's torn down!

  43. Section 106 needs to be revisited. NHPA was never intended to have this kind of reach.

  44. Definitely an adverse possession. The government entity needs to ante-up the 4.8 Million to preserve the structure then redevelop/selloff the open land for other purposes.

    1. I'm, why should taxpayers be footing the bill?

      If the "prervationists" want it, they can make the owner a better offer than the real estate developer.

      1. Preservationists. Auto-correct only works on the wrong words -- it converted "Um" to "I'm."

  45. Don't plan on your real estate speculation to be your ticket to retirement. Zoning changes happen all of the time.

    It's a democracy. Tough shit.

    1. And private property is private property, and a takings is a takings.

    2. So if "the collective" decides to take a shit in your rights then you plan to accept that because "it's a democracy?" and you expect others to do so as well?

      You're livestock, a kept animal who means nothing.

      Now I understand why the trolls use the term NPC

    3. It's a republic.

      But let's say he's living in a true democracy. In a true democracy, it would require just over 50% of the voters to decide what to do. Would 50% + 1 voters actually vote to do this to Tom?

      Probably not. It's the tyranny of a city council, which probably is only a dozen persons at most and almost certainly doesn't actually reflect the will of the people.

    4. seedeevee
      August.2.2019 at 1:38 pm
      "It’s a democracy. Tough shit."

      No, it isn't.
      Fuck off, slaver.

  46. Poor Tom, this is a travesty and makes my blood boil. What's wrong with moving the building to a state owned piece of land?

    The owners of the other 2 Googie style restaurants should have a grease fire pronto, or they'll be screwed too. At least change the roof style NOW.

  47. Only in America would a 50 year old building be described as 'historic'. I lived in Germany for a few years in a house that was 400 years old. And nobody thought it was particularly noteworthy; probably because the center of the city had been build in 1100 AD.

  48. This has a simple solution if it hasn’t been given protected status yet. Just go over on a weekend with a couple of sledgehammers and make it no longer “historical”,

  49. I wonder if Jessica Caouette is willing to purchase the property? If you have a good idea on how to raise the money, send them to her at jessica@tandembardenver.com.

  50. First if all, the preservationists should raise and pay to owner fair market value for his property. Then they can do with it what they want.
    However this is an example of horrible city planning that would designate this building, in a higher density area, and to the financial detriment of owner, as historic and worthy of preservation. Historic preservation is not only about selecting single buildings but rather planning for the fabric of a city.
    The planners and city officials should have in place design review guidelines which ensure a BETTER building is built when an old building is destroyed.
    Googie architecture is not worth all this money and time being spent in lawsuit. Stupid and stupider.
    This case is where activists shoot themselves in the foot and encourage civil disobedience . Developers often buy the land, make promises to keep, then knock the building down and pay the fines.
    Preservationists do not have more rights than owners. They should ay market value then they can flip pancakes to their hearts content!

    1. Preservationists have zero rights.

    2. "The planners and city officials should have in place design review guidelines which ensure a BETTER building is built when an old building is destroyed."

      The planners and city officials should fuck off. Their record is solid; one screw up after the other.
      Remember 'urban renewal'?

  51. It's a takings, and he can sue to recoup the difference between the current commercial offer and its diminished value.

  52. Tom Messina just posted a "wanted" ad on Craigslist for a Komatsu D355A...

  53. I'd burn the fucker down then sell it. Fuck those assholes.

  54. How much volume would you say Tom Messina owns? Does it go from 10 feet below ground to 30 feet above ground, or does it go from the center of the earth to include whatever galaxies might lie in that infinite pyramid at any given time?

    What gives Tom Messina the right to sell the volume 100 feet above the top of his roof, which has never been used by he or previous owners of the land? Wouldn't the filling of that space with apartments amount to a taking from the surrounding commuity, of "view", if nothing else?

    1. Who owns the mineral rights is an open question, particularly in an area like Denver where mining has been a big thing.

      In America, property owners generally own the air rights above their property. Absent zoning regulations, surrounding property owners have no right to a view through your property.

      1. Mineral rights can be sold separately from the property itself so there's no way to tell from the story whether he owns the mineral rights.

  55. Here in Phoenix there was a "historic" drive-thru liquor store that people were fighting to save. The interest was largely driven by social media exposure. Most of the asshats fighting to save it hadn't even been there. A few local hipsters were sad because they bought their first PBR there. They lost. Thankfully. It was pathetic.

  56. You "preservationists" can meet the bid or STFU. It's his property so he can do as he pleases with it. He should remodel it and put a roof on that looks like a giant clown hat and then pull all the wiring and have some undocumented democrat voters do the wiring only to have it catch fire and burn to the ground....and then sell it to the original interested buyer. Colorado is going communist.

    1. Hmm. Could he paint a HUGE swastika on the property?
      Should get the activists riled up, and maybe some Antifa member will burn it down, absolving the owner of any arson accusations.

  57. So if he takes a sledge hammer to his own place... will he be arrested? Can he not refuse to press charges as the landowner? As long as he doesn’t make an insurance claim....
    Is it against the law to drive a truck through the front door?

    1. You need demolition permits to tear it down; fat chance.

  58. This is a despicable act by a bunch of busybodies, progress hating clowns. I have lived in Aurora for over 50 years and have visited this, and several of the other, restaurants and there is nothing particularly special about this one, especially significant enough to claim landmark status. The fact that 5 miserable haters can deprive a person who busted his ass for 20 years, undoubtedly serving several of those same people, out of selling his property and retiring the way he wants should be criminal and not encouraged by the idiots on the council or any commissions.

    I sincerely hope this guy prevails and that any new housing that goes up ruins that broad's view from her hovel.

  59. "Unique characteristics" and "potential use" are aspects considered in eminent domain arbitration. Nobody should be punished for running a business in a building worth preserving.

    (But if this were a clearer case of historical architectural importance, wouldn't the story be a little more complicated? Say, if his restaurant were at Stonehenge?)

    So a little back-of-envelope lawyering suggests that the government should supplement any buyer's price to preserve the property as-is up to the market value the owner was able to obtain on his own, if the government has that much of an interest in preserving it. The buyer would then go in knowing they couldn't bulldoze.

  60. My (late) Mother was involved with historical preservation from the early days in tue 1960’s. It started as a very beneficial movement, concerned with protecting buildings of genuine historical value and architectural merit. By the end of the 1970’s she was already fighting efforts to ‘protect’ buildings that were simply OLD. One case I recall was a terrace of 1870’s worker housing. They weren’t anything special from either a historical or architectural standpoint. The bald fact was that they had been eyesores when they were built, and had been getting uglier for a century. Mother’s position was that the plans should be preserved, and pictures taken, and then they should be replaced by just about anything of more benefit to society.

    This is simply more of the same.

  61. If he loses he should close restaurant. Open a strip club in its place. Or maybe a Trump2020 apparel superstore.

    1. A trump 2020 headquarters would be epic.

      1. Maybe he can do that and hold a Proud Boys rally, knowing full well that the Antifa members that arrive will burn the place down....

  62. Strange, I don't notice Britschgi or anybody else from 'Reason' offering to buy the place. All talk and no hat, 'Reason' is.

    1. Why should they buy the place? The person who should be offering to buy the place is the one trying to prevent the sale.

    2. Why don't the piece-of-shit activists buy it for $4.6 million and put in a fucking restaurant museum. They're denying this guy his retirement. He'll be tied up in court for the next 10 years.

  63. Wow. One well-placed match

  64. I wonder if this guy can turn the tables on the activists.
    Do the activists own homes or property?
    Could he use similar busybody laws to cause them financial harm on the properties they own? Doesn't have to be the exact same law--maybe one of the activists owns a regular house but happens to be running it as an AirBnB, and he gets the city to come in and shut their AirBnB business down, etc.
    Gov't is a weapon; perhaps he can use it to teach them a lesson.

  65. Then why don't these activists give him $4.6 million for it and enjoy their new restaurant. Bunch of fucking wastrels and societal leeches.

  66. People get the government they deserve.

    These people move in.

    People do nothing.

    These people ruin your lives.

    People write comments.

  67. The place is HIS. And one aspect of OWNERSHIP is the sovereign right to become an UN-owner just as easily.

    If they are to set on what happens to it, let THEM become owners, they THEY can decide how to run their lives. Now they're only trying to run somenoe else's, and from the way they are managing their own, they've no place to manage someone else's.

    Let them raise the cash to outbid the present developer.

    Who pays the fiddler calls the tune.

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  69. Since he had an offer on this property before the city's (government) intervention, implicitly, he put it on the market beforehand also. That means the sale was legal at the time it was solicited and offered. Passing retroactive laws is, it seems, somewhere between Ex Post Facto and a Bill of Attainder, both of which are prohibited in the constitution, at least of Congress. Any fresh law school graduates in the Denver area ready for a quick paycheck?

  70. I almost became an architect. I've been a fan of architecture since I was a kid. I've never heard of "Googie" architecture, and now I'd like to forget it.

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  72. Clear case of govt taking. The value before the take was already set by contract, value after with the forced designation. Differential is amount the Denver will owe him. Clearly decline in value due to the possible city's decision to change the property legal status. The master plan will only support the loss in value by City's action and taking some of the bundle of rights. Now for the attorney's and appraisers to make lots of money, but it is reasonable that the City will be writing a nice big check if that is what they decide. Even the threat could be constituted a partial taking by the city.

  73. The 5 bitch complainers, and the historic board, should be required to pay the man his 4.8 million dollars then they can do whatever the fuck they want with THEIR property. If they refuse, shoot them one by one until they agree. At that point, the next 5 busybody bitches will reconsider their desire to take what belongs to someone else. This is an attempt at outright theft, and should be treated as such. Including deadly force, just like you would treat a bank robber.

  74. For Liberals who are eager to proclaim that the government cannot tell them what to do with their bodies, they are awful quick to use that same government to tell someone else what they can do with their property. Gotta love the hypocrisy.

    1. If only there were some measurable differences between a body and property.

      I realize conservatives have had a hard time making such a distinction, historically, but for some reason the body is always someone else's property.

      1. A human living inside a human isn't a human?

        Democrats already tried that one when they owned dark-skinned humans.

        Now they traffic in children of all colors. See the southern border of the USA.

        1. Tony delights in baby murder.

        2. A human living inside another human is a human, and a medical emergency.

          A fetus is a different story.

          And nobody said Democrats weren't conservative in the past. Once they started giving black people rights, all the conservative Democrats who used to own slaves jumped ship and became Republicans (a party that is like 90% white today). But you knew that. Just kidding no you didn't.

  75. "preservation activists have said they want to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement that will allow Messina to sell his building while saving the building aesthetic they value so much."

    Well, then hand him $4.7M and be done with it. Once the activists buy the place, they can do with it as they please.

  76. He should've set a match to it...

  77. Fascist Democrats doing what fascist Democrats do.

    1. Fascist democrats? That’s redundant.

  78. This is a classic example of bullying.
    Someone read where this poor fellow was thinking about retiring and had the opportunity to sell his property off to a developer who was interested in repurposing the property and decided to interfere with no real interest in whether or not that diner is a historical landmark of not.
    If there are 3 other restaurants of from the same original company, then there is nothing special about this one other than the fact that it allows the bully's the ability to mess with this poor man. Shame on them.

    1. No. He filed a demolition permit which is about a six week process here. Presumably because the developer wanted the land clear and prob anticipated this sort of thing and wants to keep their powder dry for their own plans for the land. All demolitions are reviewed by the Landmark Commission anyway and in this case an application for landmark designation was also made.

  79. A restaurant built in the 60's is now historic? Guess that makes me an antique.

  80. This country is losing its collective minds. This man has worked and paid taxes for all those year and now those with no vested interest try to prevent him from reaping the benefits? If the town says it has a historical value, great. Pay the man market value and move on.

  81. Most of you are missing the point here. You can certainly say it is an over reach by government, and that is partially true. However, paying attention to the facts as stated in this story makes it plain that this is the action of “civic minded” activists. These are private citizens that are taking the task upon themselves to dictate what a person does with their own property. If they are truly interested in preservation than give the owner fair market value. If not, then mind your own business. This should be a great concern to any small business owner out there. You’re property rights are at stake.

  82. Most of the commentators seemingly little knowledge about laws. The main reason for the rise in value has nothing to do with “hard work” or dedication, it has to do with laws, and it is these zoning and preservation laws that have helped to create greater values in Denver. The historic designation is just as fair as one property being up-zoned and another property remaining downzoned. The author of this article claims that NIMBYs are only interested in block development in the opening statement, then later states that the building represents an architectural style and that the historical commission agreed with the argument. Also in contradiction with the author’s opening claims about NIMBYism as the primary purpose of the nomination, is the author’s narrative on the activists and their effort to find a compromise to save the building. If they were just against development, they would not have conducted meets to find development alternatives. Regardless, at the end of the day, the city bestowed zoning upon this property owner that gave it a exponentially greater value, and now they might reduce that gift because of the community and their values. Now all of you that think property rights Trump everything can go pound sand. And I seriously doubt your president would want to remove landmark protections-well perhaps for this building, but I seriously doubt he would want to see all of the great beauty of New York City destroyed.

    1. "the city bestowed zoning upon this property owner that gave it a exponentially greater value"

      You didn't build that!

      "all of the great beauty of New York City"


      1. It's pretty fucking obvious 'he didn't build that'. This whole argument is that the land is worth more with the building demolished and the lot vacant than it is with any man-made property on it.

  83. 4.8 mil and the people can whatever they want to with it. If it really of historical value, PROVE IT, buy it!

  84. The activists are assholes. Imagine you being the person that preserved a stupid building but ruined a person's life?

    And who do they think they are to suddenly be part of the negotiation? Unbelievable.

    Someone should pony up the $4.8 million because this is immoral. Small business owners have to prepare for their pensions and one way to do it is to sell their business and take the proceeds as their retirement. To take that from someone is outrageous.

    I hope it works out for Messina.

  85. Wanna know what's probably the worst about this? I guarantee you if the tables were reversed and it was one of these NIMBY numbskulls in his position, they wouldn't be happy.

  86. Ooooooooooooo "activists."

    And some Conservatives pretend to act surprised that America is becoming a radicalized divided country after spewing agitprop and demagoguery like this.

    Either it is an historical building, or it is not - THAT is the only relevant issue.

    Those trying to make the case that it is a historical building took the time to create and file that "30-plus page application" - What have you done other than to fan the flames of division.

    If you don’t like the law that protects historical buildings, make the case to get rid of it.

    1. No that is not the only relevant issue. The far more relevant issue is what does that designation as 'historic landmark' COST.

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