Old, shuttered motel on Denver’s East Colfax to be revived

Construction has started on what is expected to be a yearlong project of turning a shutdown, shambles of a motel on East Colfax Avenue into a rejuvenated stop for visitors and a bright spot in the Denver neighborhood.

Denver developer Nathan Beal bought the shuttered La Vista Motel with the idea of reviving the business, which was built in 1956. He plans to restore the motel and add a cocktail bar and coffee shop.

The goal is to finish La Vista’s transformation by the spring of 2025 and open it by June. The two-level building is blocked off by a fence, its faded red exterior barely visible and its windows and doors boarded up.

Postcards from the 1950s and ’60s that Beal found show a brightly colored building with a row of flags flying and cars in the parking lot. In later years, La Vista was among rundown motels along East Colfax that provided temporary lodging for people but also became hotspots for crime.

“When I bought the motel, the city had shut it down because of safety concerns. It sounded like rampant drug use and crime,” Beal said.

A review on Yelp from 2018 was by a lodger who said he returned to his room at night to find a stranger running out of it. A man two doors down offered him shelter in return for buying drugs from him. A visitor in 2017 wrote about a bug-infested bed.

Beal bought the motel in 2022 for about $2.8 million. He figures the renovation will cost around $4.3 million. He is working with the architecture firm SopherSparn, branding experts at Studio Mast and with Xan Creative on design and finishes.

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La Vista is the first hospitality project Beal has worked on, but his other developments have included adapting old buildings to new uses. His recent projects include turning a historic grocery store in Denver into a small apartment building with commercial space on the ground floor.

“I like getting into the old buildings and trying to figure out how to put them back together, make them work a little bit better and bring them back their original glory,” Beal said.

He was drawn to the La Vista Motel at 5500 E. Colfax Ave because of its proximity to downtown and such nearby attractions as the Bluebird Theater, which opened in 1914 as a moviehouse and is now a well-known music hall.

“I hope La Vista will be a nice motel for people to use when coming to see concerts in Denver or visiting friends and family in the neighborhood,” Beal said.

Colfax Avenue, part of U.S. 40, runs east/west and is one of the Denver area’s major thoroughfares. At about 27 miles, it is considered to be the longest continuous commercial street in the country.

Once home to some of Denver’s more upper-income homes, Colfax has evolved through the years. The street runs through Aurora, Denver, Lakewood and Golden and features popular restaurants and bars, well-known dives, used car lots, fast-food spots, music venues, abandoned buildings and a diversity of neighborhoods.

“I’ve always been interested in Colfax because it does seem to be a little bit of an anomaly in Denver,” Beal said. “Colfax is oftentimes the rough side of the neighborhood, but on either side of it it’s really nice. I feel like there’s some opportunity to do something nice on Colfax.”

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(Rendering provided by SopherSparn Architects) Work is underway on the La Vista Motel on East Colfax Avenue in Denver. Developer Nathan Beal wants to rejuvenate the abandoned motel while evoking the era in which it was built: mid-century America.

Ryan Goold with SopherSparn said he’s excited about an opportunity to reinvigorate an old building “and provide a sort of catalyst and nexus for the neighborhood.” The design will evoke mid-20th-century America mixed with modern touches.

The original plan was to convert the motel into apartments.

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“But we found it quite challenging once we got into the city permitting process with the change of use,” Beal said. “The things they asked us to do just made it not feasible.”

Beal believes keeping La Vista as a motel will help draw people and visitors to local businesses in the neighborhood. The motel will have 23 rooms, two of which will be suites.

And the vintage neon sign, which is missing most of its letters, will be restored. Beal said the sign’s script will be used in the motel’s branding and other features of the building.

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“We’ll still try to offer it at more of a budget-friendly price,” Beal said.

The motel operator will set the prices, but Beal said initial projections put the cost of an overnight stay from about $150 to $185 for the larger rooms.

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