The Metlo Makeover: From Moldy Motel to Small-Business Magnet

The Golden Triangle's former Broadway Plaza Motel has emerged from its renovation better and brighter than ever as an office building and a local model of adaptive reuse: The Metlo. The place is quickly attracting tenants -- it's more than half full just a month after the doors opened.
There was a time when Denver's main arteries, Broadway and Colfax Avenue, bristled with the sleek, neon signs of roadside motels, some gimmicky, like the Bugs, ahem, Big Bunny Motel on Colfax, others more straightforward. That was a time of long-bodied cars, beehive hairdos and the first color TVs -- the 1950s. Today those cars are considered classics and the hairdos are kitschy, but many of the motels along those corridors remain, often in stages of disrepair -- or worse.
At least one motel, the Broadway Plaza Motel at the northwest corner of 11th Avenue and Broadway, has found new life instead of a wrecking ball. The motel was recently rebranded as the Broadway Plaza Metlo, a mixed-use commercial space with 30 units up for rent -- well, not anymore.
More than half of its spaces are leased, says former Avalanche player Mark Rycroft, who's now working with his father-in-law Jon Cook's family business, Colorado Commercial Capital. Not bad considering the building just opened its slick new doors in April.
 Blonc' A Salon is one of the Metlo's first tenants.
During a visit to the Metlo, Rycroft is up on the third floor talking with its newest tenant, Shannon Briese of Total Body Wellness, who signed a lease just days before. Meanwhile in the parking lot, a man peers into the sleek aluminum and glass spaces -- perhaps a future tenant.
Briese joins a host of other small companies establishing offices and retail shops in the building. Among them are LoPro Consulting (specializing in startup marijuana dispensaries), Pressed Juice Daily (a juice shop), Crush Salon, Integrity Print Group's The Sign Lab and other tenants, including architects and construction companies, that don't need giant office spaces.
Recycling a motel

Jon Cook Jr., says it's important to use old spaces like the Metlo in new ways. "It's just that if there's still something good there, there's no point in letting it go to waste," he says. "So that building, even though it had had a lot of years of neglect to it, was not taken care of the way a good property should be. There's still a good raw building there. It just needed some new life breathed into it."
Indeed, the building had fallen into serious disrepair. After the Cooks and Rycroft took it over, they replaced the ceiling last August, and then embarked on a massive cleanup. Rycroft says they ripped up as many as three layers of carpet to get to the original cement flooring, which has now been refinished. In fact, if the building had any wood in it, Rycroft doesn't think it would have been salvageable.
Still, by taking some simple steps, removing the clunky, blocky railings, replacing them with iron and cable, cleaning up the stairs, repainting, and stripping the former rooms to their bones before refinishing them, the company was able to take a sorely outdated building, seen as an eyesore by neighbors, and make it a sleek structure that attracts innovative companies today.
It's not the first time Colorado Commercial Capital has redeveloped an outdated space. The company also remodeled 1740 S. Broadway, which is now home to Corvus Coffee.

"My dad's done a lot of small redevelopment of buildings along South Broadway over the years, but [the Metlo] is the first of its type for us," Cook says. "My dad…saw the building and knew there was a need for small office space and it was just a perfect set up with the building."

User-friendly leasingThe 1950s motel sign was left on the building to add to the vintage charm.
The minds behind the Metlo also have made it easy for tenants to know what they'll spend each month, whether a tenant rents one of the smaller spaces that start at $1,000 a month or one of the larger spaces for $2,450 a month, that's what they'll pay for everything.

"It's all a gross lease," Cook Jr. says. "There's no fluctuation in cost. You don't have to pay for the electrical. You have your own heating and air conditioning that you're not paying for. You don't have to pay a water bill. You don't have to pay property taxes. So its' really easy to budget." Basically, the only additional bill the tenants will pay are their telecommunications bills.
As far as Cook Jr. knows, the idea of converting a neglected mid-century motel into office space is unique. "We really haven't seen the same concept anywhere else, but it seems to work," he says. "We wish we could have 100 hotels like this to do the same thing."
While there are plenty of run-down hotels and motels in Denver, don't expect them to transform into cool new office spaces overnight. "We're not wanting to get ahead of ourselves," he adds. "We're going to make sure we do this perfect and make sure we have everything smooth on this," Cook says.
Then again there's the old real estate adage, that it's all about three things: location, location, location. Rycroft points out two nearby cranes lifting loads mere blocks away, each working on multi-million-dollar apartment complexes. 

"The Golden Triangle is the hottest spot in Denver from a developers' standpoint," he says. With the new Art hotel being built at the Denver Art Museum, the new History Colorado Center down the street, and Galvanize just blocks away, it's hard to argue with that sentiment.

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Chris Meehan.

Chris is a Denver-based freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. He covers sustainability, social issues and other topics.
Signup for Email Alerts