The Metlo in Denver

photo by: Denver Community Planning

March 6, 2017

From Mod Motel to Creative Hub: The Metlo in Denver

  • By: Lauren Walser

Take the word “motel.” Rearrange the letters a bit, and you get something totally new. In this case, The Metlo, a sleek, 21st-century retail and office complex in Denver, Colorado.

Built as the Broadway Plaza Motel in 1957, this retro roadside motel long had long been an eyesore at the corner of 11th Avenue and Broadway. The building had fallen into serious disrepair, and guests consistently left less-than-stellar reviews of their stays there.

The building got a second life, however, starting back in 2013 when developer John C. Cook and owner Mark Rycroft took over the space and began a major overhaul.

Their goal was to keep the building looking much like it did in the mid-20th century. The bones of the motel are still there. As is the original facade and the flat roof and the exterior stairwells and hallways.

But they made a number of key, stylish upgrades.

The Metlo in Denver

photo by: Denver Community Planning

The Metlo is located in Denver's Golden Triangle District.

Inside, they removed layers of worn, torn carpeting and refinished the original cement floors underneath. They replaced the ceilings and completed all the usual systems upgrades to turn once-dismal motel rooms into versatile, high-functioning office and retail space.

On the outside, they replaced the wall of doors and windows leading to the individual motel rooms on the south side of the structure with floor-to-ceiling windows, flooding the interior with natural light. And now, instead of blocky railings along the exterior walkways, there’s sleek iron and cable railings. They gave the structure a new paint job, adding bright lime green and gray touches, and they restored the neon sign, rearranging the letters to spell out “Metlo.”

The result is a creative hub in the center of Denver’s Golden Triangle District, open to local businesses, start-ups, and other entrepreneurial and creative ventures.

Tenants began filling the new office spaces at The Metlo soon after doors opened in early 2014. Today, there’s Amethyst Coffee Company, an airy cafe, as well as an outpost of popular local juice shop Pressed Juice Daily. There are hair salons, estheticians, massage therapists, a wellness center, a medical spa, a cannabis distributor, and a house cleaning and personal concierge service. Design firms, like Nest Architectural Design, set up shop there. And for the city’s pet owners, there’s pet sitting service City Kitty Sitter, as well as Apollo Peak, a shop that specialized in non-alcoholic “wine” for cats and dogs.

It’s a model of adaptive reuse. For this extensive work, the project received a 2016 Mayor’s Design Award.

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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