Rio Grande Co. silos slated for demolition

DENVER — They peek over rooftops in Denver’s Baker neighborhood and likely steal the mountain view for some.

“It’s those series of three silos next to each other,” John Olson described. “You have two sets of those and then the very bright advertising.”

The concrete silos and giant green “Rio Grande Co.” sign along Santa Fe Drive are not subtle, but they’re historic.

“It really shows the industrial past that we had near the river and the rail,” Olson said.

Olson is deputy director of Historic Denver, and he wishes he could save the old coal silos that belong to Rio Grande Co.

“I believe that it’s going to be coming down and we’re sad to have that happen,” Olson said.

Rio Grande Co., now a building materials company, built the silos sometime between 1915 and 1925, but hasn’t had a use for them in a long time. Last month, Denver’s landmark preservation staff reviewed an application to demolish the near century-old silos.

“We get about 670 applications a year for demolition,” said Jennifer Cappeto, manager of landmark preservation for the city of Denver.

Cappeto said her team determined the Rio Grande Co. silos had potential for historic designation due to their historical and geographic significance to Denver. That happens in about 4 percent of cases, Cappeto said.

The city posted a notice about the planned demolition online and at the site and waited to see if anyone had interest in designating the silos as a historical landmark.

“We didn’t hear from anyone in the community, and at the end of the 21-day period we approved the demolition application,” Cappeto said.

The story of the silos is just one of hundreds the city digs into each year.

“It’s really up to the community to tell us what’s important to them,” Cappeto said.

John Olson said Historic Denver had been in talks with the owner of Rio Grande Co. last year in hopes of saving and re-purposing the silos, but the preservation group did not submit a landmark preservation application. Olson hopes there’s still a way to save the silos.

“This is the time to really have that conversation about what’s valuable to us as a city,” Olson said. “Let’s put in the work, put in the effort to make sure that we have a new use for these buildings that are important to us.”

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