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The Future of the Broadway Firestone Auto Shop: 262 New Homes or Car Culture Preservation?

Surrounded by new apartment buildings, the mid-century Firestone auto shop at 2000 Broadway is in the sights of developers and can be saved. Denver must decide whether the one-story Googie-style building should be preserved in the name of history or bulldozed to make way for housing.

It’s a debate between preservation and construction that plays out again and again in the city: at Tom’s Diner, at the Brutalist Channel 7 building or at the Tortillas de Mexico site.

This time, a team including Tennessee-based Broadway Cali Partners, LLC, along with GBT real estate company, filed an application for demolition eligibility for the Firestone site. GBT Realty has extensive experience with suburban malls and select luxury apartments in its home state of Tennessee, as well as Texas.

GBT real estate company and national planning and design firm Kimley Horn also submitted plans to the city for the development of 2000 Broadway. A spokesperson for the project declined to comment.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The proposed building would consist of 25 floors with 262 units, according to concept plans currently under review. It would not be a fully income-restricted housing development, and the number of units is much smaller than the 646 units proposed to be built across from the Mercury Cafe.

None of these potential accommodations at 2000 Broadway would be possible if the building were saved. And Denver Landmark Preservation has labeled it eligible for preservation.

Over the next few weeks, Denver City Council members, the planning department, and residents will decide if it’s a good idea to fight for the Mid-Century Auto Shop.

Here is the history of the site, according to Denver Landmark Preservation.

Since the 1800s, Broadway has been a major road through Denver, and from the 1910s it became the strip where car dealerships and repair centers opened businesses. In May 1922, the Denver Post first advertised the 2000 Broadway spot this way: “Prominent Corner at 2000 Broadway Extension.” Just the place for a gas station. 100 foot frontage on Broadway and California. In 1924, Kremer Tire Service Co. opened a store on the land, alongside many similar businesses that developed in the area.

Firestone, a company founded in 1900 that took off when Henry Ford used its tires on Model Ts in 1906, had another store in Denver at 770 Speer Blvd. But as business boomed, the company needed a second location, and opened a Firestone Auto Supply & Service store at the former Kremer location in 1936.

In the mid-1900s, as automotive culture took off in the suburbs, downtown businesses had to find ways to compete. Firestone’s answer: all-new fashionable architecture and expanded offerings far beyond automotive supplies.

In 1965, the Denver Post described the old Firestone Building being razed and a new building, the one that stands there today, being constructed. The newspaper describes it as “the most modern one-stop shop serving the region”.

And the one-stop-shop was no exaggeration.

“The store’s grand opening advertisement offered deals on tires, auto services and automotive supplies as well as electric knives, suit bags, televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators, radios, bicycles and outboard motors,” Denver Landmark Preservation explained in its report. . “There were also prizes including trips and cameras. For Christmas in 1965, Firestone offered deals not only on tires, but also on electric blankets, hair dryers, stereos, phonographs, clothes irons, vacuum cleaners, watches and bicycles.

Over the years, the building has continued to function as an auto repair shop, although its modern look has become nostalgic.

Here’s why the planning department thinks the building is eligible for preservation.

The structure is an excellent example of mid-century modern style, says Denver Landmark Preservation in its report. Although the building’s architect is unknown, the design evokes Googie architecture, with elaborate designs, unusual roofing, and a futuristic appeal aimed at appealing to drivers looking for a “modern” experience.

Many car dealerships and car-related buildings have been demolished, so it’s also a rare example of the businesses that once thrived on Broadway. And the building, built at the junction of Broadway and 20th and California streets, shows how architects have used design to force people to pay attention to business and compete in an oversaturated market.

The Firestone Building, built in 1965, also marks a time when the downtown became subordinate to the suburbs – a place where people drove to work.

The Firestone Auto Shop at 2000 Broadway.  June 7, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

“The booming post-war economy provided a boost to middle class and suburban development,” Denver Landmark Preservation wrote. “Since these new suburban developments were typically outside of local transit lines, the personal automobile became essential for the new suburban population. As Americans became dependent on the automobile, it created a new automobile culture that shaped urban development.

The question Denver residents now face: Should today’s urban development and the need for new housing be held back by nostalgia for yesterday’s car culture?

Those who want to preserve the site have until June 23 file a notice of intent to file an application to preserve the building. Here’s who can: the community planning and development officer, a member of city council, or three Denver residents. If they submit a letter of intent, they have until August 1 to apply.

In most cases, sites eligible for preservation are not preserved.