Tom’s Diner, an iconic 24/7 hotspot owned and operated for more than two decades by Denverite Tom Messina — that was recently saved from demolition and landed itself on the National Register of Historic Places — is currently undergoing a full renovation of the original space, a unique design pioneered in the mid-20th century by nationally recognized Los Angeles architecture firm Armét & Davis.
Cleveland-based GBX Group, a firm specializing in the acquisition, preservation, and operation of historic real estate in urban markets, and project developer Denver Land Company, played a key role in facilitating and materializing project plans.
The project represents an ideal outcome for all involved. “When you draw it up, this is what you want to see,” Taylor Turano, founder of Denver Land Company said. “Every step of the way, with every public and private entity involved, from the preservation to the coming commercialization of this Denver landmark, the collaboration was there. Now the community will reap the benefits, along with the potential for new developments along Colfax that could further add to the atmosphere of the revitalized diner.”
Aided by local bank financing and a government-backed Small Business Administration loan, the work involves a significant interior renovation and complete exterior rehab, including new storefront glass and an outdoor mix of uses to support a unique indoor/outdoor experience. However, the building’s nostalgic facade will remain, resulting in a creative blend of old and new.
Beyond the nostalgia and entertainment value, the project will also generate a significant economic impact for the area. A recent study by Rutgers University found that the building rehabilitation will create more than 40 local jobs and $2.4 million in labor income, driving a one-time $7.1 million economic output. Once complete, the annual operation will support nearly 70 direct and indirect jobs, $2.8 million of income, and annual economic output of $7.7 million. The net result is millions of dollars in new tax revenue at the local, state, and federal levels.
Messina, who continued to operate the space as Tom’s Diner until closing it in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was saddened to see his namesake become the target of continued vandalism in the past year and a half that it sat empty. But he has his sights set on better times ahead.
“It was heartbreaking to witness after all the years of hard work,” Messina said. “Now it’s a new day, and I look forward to celebrating the rebirth of Tom’s with our community, partners, and all of Denver.”