Colfax Ave – The Characters, History, & Progress

Colfax Avenue’s unique history comes from the richness of its people and the places and events they created in the community. Those of us with some familiarity of Colfax can rattle off how it was the stompin’ grounds for Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac; the backyard for East High graduates and Hollywood actors Pam Grier and Don Cheadle; and where Bob Dylan played to uninterested audiences at Pete’s Satire Lounge.

Along with great characters, famous and not, Colfax has some great buildings. The Colfax Ave Business Improvement District board and the greater Colfax community have tremendous pride in the history of the area and we want to see important aspects of that history preserved while also allowing the area to continually evolve to meet the current and future aspirations of the community.

Sometimes, these priorities come into conflict with one another as is the case with the building at 1080 E. Colfax, commonly known as the “Smiley’s” building for the laundromat that occupied that space for decades. There are good reasons on both sides of the debate for whether or not to preserve the building. The Colfax Ave BID carefully considered the issue and decided to support the proposed project called, Route 40 by the current owner/developer, Consolidated Investment Group (CIG). 

The decision was based on the vision of the project and how well it fits what is needed on Colfax. Route 40 will add more than 180 units of housing to the greater Capitol Hill neighborhood. The studio, one and two bedroom apartments will be market rate and will increase the number units available in the area, hopefully helping to ease demand and stabilize (maybe help lower) rents.

The second floor will be a shared workspace that will continue to help bring more people into the area during the workday and an additional customer base for the ground floor retail.

On the ground floor a marketplace is planned that meets many needs of the community and it activates desired streetlife in the area. Creating a place where potentially thousands of residents and visitors meet daily will help develop a vibrant street life by adding “eyes on the street” and reducing criminal activity currently occurring in the immediate area that inhibits economic development and makes many of the local residents uncomfortable. The BID looks forward to working with CIG to help populate the marketplace with businesses and services that will work well with that site considering it is at the intersection of major bus lines and in the heart of the densest neighborhood in Denver.

Also influential to our decision was a report by historic preservation experts at the Heritage Consulting Group (HCG). HCG studied the “Smiley” building and their report concluded that it does not merit historical status stating, “…as a humble building, 1080 Colfax is not a striking example of development in any context.”

The Smiley’s building has been a staple of Colfax for a long time. In an ideal world we would be able to satisfy all needs and desires. However, that is not possible in the case of this building that has served its purpose. We have been talking with CIG about how they can help capture and memorialize some of the history of Smiley’s in their new building, while also building for our needs today and the decades to come. However sad it is to see this old building go, it’s time to create a new history for this piece of land that can be part of the 21st century Colfax.

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