Columbine Mill still vacant despite downtown boom

Owner says upgrades are in the works, city says it’s seen no proposals

Posted 11/16/18

Littleton’s downtown might be in the middle of a boom, but one landmark just off Main Street remains vacant. The Columbine Mill, the historic grain elevator at 5798 S. Rapp St., has stood empty for …

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Columbine Mill still vacant despite downtown boom

Owner says upgrades are in the works, city says it’s seen no proposals

Posted

Littleton’s downtown might be in the middle of a boom, but one landmark just off Main Street remains vacant.

The Columbine Mill, the historic grain elevator at 5798 S. Rapp St., has stood empty for the last three years. The 81-foot structure, built in 1901 and operated as a flour mill and grain silo until 1974 (or 1971, according to some sources), became a restaurant in 1975, and saw a variety of owners over the years, according to city documents.

The mill received designation from the City of Littleton as a historic structure in 1994. Its most recent occupant, Cliffhangers Brewing Company, closed in 2015.

The building was bought in 2017 by Francois Safieddine, the founder of the View House restaurant chain, who is also famous for his championship poker wins. Safieddine paid $559,000 for the building, according to county documents — almost $40,000 less than its previous owner paid for it 11 years earlier.

Safieddine, who would only answer questions by email through a spokesperson, said plans are in the works to revamp the building.

“Francois has the property available for lease and is currently working with the city to develop a new floor plan,” said Lindsey Huttrer, who represents Safieddine. “Because it is a historic building, the process is more complex and will take a bit more time to finalize... Once the improvements are green lit, Francois is hoping to generate more interest in the property. It would be great to see a brewery go into the location, though it is important to move through the process cautiously in order to create the perfect fit for downtown Littleton.”

Safieddine held a pre-application meeting with city staff in April to discuss putting new windows on the building, according to documents on the city’s Development Activity List website, but hasn’t scheduled any further meetings.

“Nothing’s been submitted to the city,” said Andrea Mimnaugh, the city’s historical preservation planner, who oversees modifications to historic structures. “We were aware there was a new property owner, and held the pre-app meeting, but nothing materialized. It’s a really important building. It would be great to see it restored and used.”

The building is caught in a sort of Catch-22, said Neil Macey, the building’s listing agent.

“It needs a total facelift,” Macey said. “Then there’s problems with the pipes and electrical. I’ve shown it 25 times and people love it until they find out how much work there is to be done. But you don’t want to revamp it and not have a financially sound tenant lined up, because the permits and the work are too expensive. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it worth anything.”

The building’s historic designation only applies to the exterior, Mimnaugh said.

“They can do what they want to the inside,” she said.

The building is significant not only as a landmark on the skyline, but as a link to Littleton’s agricultural past, said Jennifer Hankinson, curator of collections for the Littleton Museum.

The building was operated for many years as the Columbine Mercantile Company by the Columbine Grange, a famers’ cooperative, Hankinson said.

“It was kind of like Sam’s Club,” Hankinson said. “Farmers could get better pricing on goods there, and they could sell their harvest for a better price.”

The mill was one of two in Littleton, Hankinson said. The other, the Rough and Ready Flour Mill, which stood at the northwest corner of Bowles Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, burned and was rebuilt twice before burning a final time in 1959.

“The Columbine Mill is a unique building,” Hankinson said. “There are very few other old structures like it in the Denver area. I look forward to whatever it will become.”

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