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Old Tower Theater To House Gymnasium, Dance, Pizza

Renovations Began On June 4

Story and photos by Cara DeGette

GPHN Editor

The façade of the old Tower Theater at 2245 Kearney St.

    The old Tower Theater on Kearney Street is being renovated and will open in mid-August as the new home of the Park Hill Dance Academy, as well as a gymnasium, called Mighty Movement, and a second Denver location of Brava Pizzeria.

Renovations of the space on the business block of Kearney Street between 22nd and 23rd avenues began in early June, said project manager Christina Schaefer. The building, at 2245 Kearney St., has stood empty since the Korean Full Gospel Church moved out in early 2012. For decades before that, until 1982, the building was the home of the Tower and Crest movie theaters.

More recently, the space was slated to be a 236-seat distillery and restaurant called Bardenay. But the out-of-state owner, Kevin Settles, abandoned the project in February, 2017 in the wake of controversy. While Bardenay was supported by many Park Hill residents, it drew criticism from nearby business owners and vocal neighbors living in surrounding residential areas. Specifically, there were concerns over the size of the proposed restaurant and distillery, the lack of parking, the potential impact on neighboring businesses and concerns over noise.

Jett Sushi General Manager Eric Tien.

Schaefer says the new plan is for the gabled area that was the old theater to be split in half. Park Hill Dance Academy, which has long been at 23rd and Dexter, will take over half the space. Mighty Movement, which also operates in Stapleton and offers youth weightlifting and fitness programs, will take over the other half of the former theater.

Andrew Silverman, owner of Em’s Ice Cream, with the paper – yes paper, not plastic – straws that the shop on Fairfax uses.

Brava Pizzeria, which is also in the Avanti building in northwest Denver, will open a restaurant in the smaller space that is directly accessible from Kearney Street. Schaefer says the plan is to rework the front façade to make it blend better with the look of the other buildings on the block.

“We don’t want it to be a sore thumb,” she said. “We want to give it the look and feel with respect to the neighborhood. We want this to be a success not just for the tenants, but for the community.”

Jett Sushi Owner Vicki Shih.

Above: Two of the restaurant’s Izakaya-style plates.

It is unclear what impact the increased traffic from the businesses will have on the block. The building is grandfathered in by the city, which means the city will not require the building’s owners to provide additional parking on the street.

Meanwhile, Over On Colfax

In addition to the Kearney business block, Park Hill is home to several other small business districts. They include Oneida Park Center, on Oneida between 22nd and 23rd avenues; Holly Square at 33rd and Holly Street; the the Fairfax business district, between 28th and 29th avenues, and along 23rd Avenue between Cherry and Dexter streets. The southernmost boundary of Park Hill is Colfax.

As is the norm, the business scene along the stretch of Colfax between Colorado Boulevard and Quebec is constantly evolving.

The space directly inside the building façade facing Kearney Street is slated to be a Brava Pizzeria restaurant.

In the past six months, Goose Sorenson closed his Spanish-style Solera after a 16-year run. A barbeque restaurant is now slated for the site. Mataam Fez, a destination for Moroccan food and an exotic multi-course experience, closed after 42 years when the building’s owners did not renew the lease. And DJ’s Café on Colfax at Eudora Street where the old Cork House and Tante Louise restaurants lived, closed less than a year after opening.

Across the street, at 5007 Colfax, the former Jett Asian Kitchen has undergone a major renovation, including its interior, its menu – and even its name, which is now Jett Sushi.

General Manager Eric Tien noted the owners wanted to transition away from a more traditional menu, and instead adopt Izakaya style – which is the Japanese version of smaller plates. Think the Asian version of tapas, in which sushi, appetizers and ramen play star roles. The bar features a huge selection of sake as well.

“It’s good to change, and to bring new flavors to the neighborhood,” Tien said.

The cavernous space that was once the old Tower Theater is being divided into a gymnasium and a dance studio.

Last year the owners – who also own the Highlands Izakaya-style restaurant Mizu – enticed a well-respected sushi chef to bring his talents to Jett from Denver’s most famous Japanese restaurant. (Tien asked not to identify the restaurant by name, but sushi fans can take an easy guess.)

Owner Vicki Shih says she has nothing but praise for the entire staff. “Every one of them have talent, and dedication, and patience,” she said. “They are my heroes.”

Other Milestones in the ‘Hood

Still no word as of press time on when the Park Hill Commons residential and retail project on the east side of Fairfax Street between 28th and 29th avenues will move forward. But across the street on the west side, The Long Table Brewhouse has opened to thirsty patrons.

And last month, Em’s Ice Cream opened up shop at 2829 Fairfax. A former daycare, church and craft shop that dates to the 1940s, owner Andrew Silverman completely renovated the space.

It’s the first retail location for Em’s – which is named for Silverman’s wife. Since 2014, he has been operating several ice cream trucks, mainly at food and music and other events, and has employed many teenagers and young people from Park Hill since Em’s first scoop hit the cone four years ago.

Em’s Ice Cream is Denver’s only all USDA certified organic ice cream company, which means everything – even down to the coffee and peanut butter and ginger and lavender – is organic. That means no GMO’s, no food coloring, no stabilizers and no corn syrup.

On a recent summer day, Silverman waxed on about the various flavors of ice cream – including which would fit which mood. Stressed? Try the lavender. Hungry? Peanut butter and chocolate. The most popular are the salted caramel, and the cookies and cream. His favorite is burnt brown sugar, and oh yes, the ginger. What about plain old vanilla? Everyone knows, Silverman shared, that vanilla is the barometer for all good ice cream …

The store opens at 3 p.m. daily.

Adam Uribes contributed to this report. Do you have news about a business in and around the neighborhood that you’d like to share? Has ownership changed hands? Has a local shop recently opened? Closed? Retired after decades in business? Won an award? Had a visit from a VIP or celebrity? Send your business news tips to editor@greaterparkhill.org for consideration. Please include “Spilling the Beans” in the subject line of the email.


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