The relaunch of Casa Bonita under new ownership will not trigger a revival along the West Colfax Corridor, but it could speed up an already ongoing one and, if done right, refresh and preserve an iconic tourist draw. Please provide a model on how to do it.
With real cliff dives, fake shoots and so much food, the Mexican restaurant has served as a draw for generations of families since it opened in 1974 at JCPenney in a suburban strip mall sandwiched between Kendall and Pierce Streets along West Colfax Avenue. The store was opened. .
The restaurant closed its doors early in the pandemic, and owner Summit Family Restaurants sought bankruptcy protection in April. But last month Summit finalized a sales deal with a group led by Colorado natives and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
“While retail has faced its challenges over the past few years, rumors of a grand vision for the future of Casa Bonita by the creators of ‘South Park’ could be a boon to local commercial and residential real estate in the West Colfax area. However, the purchase of Trey & Mat can serve as a model for preserving history throughout West Colfax,” said Philip Kranfuss, head of Colorado real estate for brokerage firm Homie.
Parker and Stone made the restaurant famous among their global fan base when they featured it in a 2003 episode of their animated series, and they have continued to highlight it over the years.
Kranfus said the restaurant is a Denver-area institution and a rite of passage for local children who may see its draw as an extension of “South Park” fans as a tourist attraction. Its preservation and sustainability is a big deal not only for the nearby neighborhood but also for the larger metro area.
He hopes the neighborhood will look very different 10 years from now, and that Casa Bonita will be part of that change.
“We are very excited about what is happening with Casa Bonita. Anything that re-energizes the restaurant is a good thing for us,” says William Marino, board president of 40 West Arts District. Good things are happening at West Colfax. There is real momentum and we need to keep going. “
The Arts District, established in 2011, has purchased a building in the parking lot next to Casa Bonita that once housed a Denver drumstick restaurant. The once-popular eatery, known for a model train that ran around the restaurant, has been lying vacant for nearly 20 years, marking a major decline, Merino said.
One of the goals of purchasing the building is to provide permanent gallery space for artists in the area, so as to avoid the patterns seen in some of Denver’s one-time artists while not costing them as a neighborhood stage, Marino said. said.
Lamar Station Plaza, the strip mall that houses Casa Bonita with its distinctive pink plaster bell tower, saw its revitalization begin when Broad Street Realty acquired the dilapidated JCRS Shopping Center in 2014 for $8 million. In the late 1800s, the Jewish Consumer Relief Society, or JCRS, treated patients with tuberculosis at that site.
The shopping center, which was once a limp with a 30% vacancy rate, is now a Planet Fitness and a Dutch Brothers, but also houses discount retailers and thrift stores for the population of the area.
“It’s really about the redevelopment of commercial spaces. The general idea is to capture the fun of Colfax and the positive energy that comes with it,” said Robert Smith, economic development director for Lakewood.
As per the city development map, Lakewood has a total of 91 commercial and residential projects that have recently been completed or are underway. Of these, 38 were completed last year, 17 were completed this year and 15 residential projects and 12 commercial projects are currently underway.
Many of those projects are centered in the northern end of the city between the W Light Rail Line and the Colfax Corridor, which at one time served as a major connecting thru for commuters driving between the Midwest and California, and served as a major connecting thru for motels and eateries. was full of
Once the wider and faster Interstate 70 to the north became the main highway, Colfax began to see more used car dealerships and pawnshops and vacant buildings.
Part of the challenge of redeveloping the area is that it was designed with setbacks and parking lots to accommodate the car culture. But now the priority is for denser and more walkable neighborhoods with amenities nearby.
“The West Colfax Corridor is undergoing a renaissance,” Smith said, adding that the “South Park” purchase, which is awaiting approval in bankruptcy court, has worked great for marketing Casa Bonita. “Part of the value of that restaurant is that it has such a storied history. All parties involved want to maintain that heritage, to grow and enhance it.”
But some longtime fans of the restaurant, such as Save Casa Bonita’s founder Andrew Novick, who launched an unsuccessful bid to acquire the establishment, worry that if too much emphasis is placed on the “South”, its original character. may be lost or thinned. Park” connection.
“‘South Park’ is huge, but if you go there any day, it’s full of families and kids with birthday parties,” he said. “If you lose out on the family friendly nature of Casa Bonita, you will lose more than you gain with ‘South Park’ visitors.”
The restaurant was getting 500,000 visits a year, and he said there were very few customers due to the “South Park” connection.
Smith said many of Lakewood’s new residents are millennials who have young families or want to start a family. He added that the “South Park” team understands and values what makes Casa Bonita special and wants to preserve it, even as they refresh the look, improve the quality of the food And bring the menu up to modern standards.
In short, he never sees a day when a diver in a red Cartman suit is jumping off a cliff.
“Casa Bonita needs that neighborhood and the neighborhood needs Casa Bonita,” he said. Both are changing, but will change simultaneously.