History Colorado asks legislature to sell off Lowry property to fix up more valuable sites

Author: Joey Bunch - May 3, 2017 - Updated: July 31, 2017

History Colorado wants to sell off a little history. The Colorado Senate Finance Committee told them to go ahead on 4-1 vote Tuesday.

The state’s historical preservation agency wants to sell off a vacant cold storage building on the former Lowry Air Force Base in East Denver and use the money to fix up some more significant projects in need of big repairs.

Chairman Tim Neville of Littleton voted against the idea. He said it made more sense to him to sell the property, put the money in an endowment and use the interest to pay for repairs. He was also concerned about liquidating an asset to pay for maintenance costs on other properties.

According to property records, the 21,215-square-foot building at 532 Golfers Way was built in 1960 and is worth about $2.9 million.

Steve Turner, History Colorado’s executive director, said the board had considered an endowment, but if they were able to put aside $2 million from the sale, it would generate about $50,000 a year, conservatively.

“We simply don’t have the resources to make these kinds of investments at this time,” he said.

About that cold storage: The state historical society wound up with the property in 1991 from the Lowry Redevelopment Authority.

It was part of a bigger acquisition at the former military base, sits vacant and “no longer fits within the mission of the state historical society,” according to the bill.

History Colorado had to cut millions from its budget in 2015, which saw the departure of four of its top officials in the wake of declining casino revenues and questions about spending.

A state audit found that millions of dollars that could have been supporting historical projects statewide, were instead steered into expensive projects in Denver, such as recoating the gold dome on the Capitol and putting nearly $111 million into the History Colorado Center.

The need to sell the Lowry cold storage is part of that, Turner said.

He said History Colorado only has one other surplus property, which the State Fair in Pueblo is interested in using for storage, meaning this isn’t the start of a major sell-off.

The historical society mostly owns small-town museums outside Denver.

“These facilities really serve rural Colorado,” Turner said Tuesday, adding that in some cases they are important engines of economic activity and tourism for their communities, which preserving the region’s past.

The bill goes next to the full Senate, then still has to pass the House unchanged — or faces last-minute negotiations between the two chambers — before the session ends on May 10.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.