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Old Chicago on Boulder’s Pearl Street could be replaced by 3-story building

Posted on: Aug 2 16

by: admin

Day family cites building age as it contemplates demolition

By Shay Castle

The property owners of Boulder’s Old Chicago are planning to raze the one-story restaurant on the Pearl Street Mall and replace it with a three-story office and retail building.

The plans include a ground-floor restaurant or retail shop, with offices slated for the second and third floors, according to an application on file with Boulder’s Planning Department.

Property owner Philip Day said the building at 1102 Pearl St., parts of which date back to the 1930s, is “decrepit” and would be too expensive to remodel.

“It’s kind of at the end of its life, so it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to put money into the existing building,” Day said. “The thing about that building is it doesn’t have good solid bones.”

A rendering of the three-story building planned for 1102 Pearl St., the Boulder commercial property that is now home to Old Chicago on the Pearl Street Mall.

Day is the son of Old Chicago founder Frank Day, who opened the Pearl Street restaurant as the pizzeria’s first location in 1976. Old Chicago grew into a chain that eventually came under the umbrella of Louisville-based Rock Bottom Restaurants, along with the Chop House and Rock Bottom Brands.

Day, a managing general partner of the Hotel Boulderado since 1980, sold Rock Bottom to a private equity firm in 2010.

The ownership of the building belongs to Frank’s ex-wife, Madeline Day, and her company, PMD Realty, of which Phil is also an owner/broker.

The younger Day said there will be an option for Old Chicago to lease space in the new building. Officials from the restaurant did not respond to requests for comment.

Day said he should have “no problem” finding retailers and offices to fill the proposed 15,000 square feet — and command top dollar.

The one remaining restaurant space in nearby Pearl West is being leased by Gibbons-White for $50 per square foot, with retail space going for between $44 and $85 a square foot. An office space down the street, in the 1100 block with Old Chicago, is listed for nearly $26 a square foot.

Zenotha "Z" Gardner walks the Pearl Street Mall promoting his Kutz By Z-Ball Barbershop in front of Old Chicago in Boulder on Monday.
Zenotha “Z” Gardner walks the Pearl Street Mall promoting his Kutz By Z-Ball Barbershop in front of Old Chicago in Boulder on Monday. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)
Day said prices for his building “will be dictated by the tremendous cost of construction.”

Jim Bray, the project’s architect, said because of the building’s location on the Pearl Street Mall, the look and feel of the new construction will be dictated heavily by city staff.

“We have to be much more sensitive to the surrounding buildings,” Bray said. “There’s much more historical context that’s going to define our design solutions.”

Sean Maher, CEO of Downtown Boulder Inc., said the single-story Old Chicago is actually a rarity on the mall.

“Corner buildings tend to be taller; there’s a lot of three-story buildings down here already, so it’s certainly not out of character,” he said. “I think it would be great.”

Several buildings along the mall have been demolished and rebuilt, according to Maher, the most recent of which was The Crystal Building in the mid-’80s, which now houses the Cheescake Factory.

As to the potential loss of one of the mall’s oldest businesses, Maher said he’d be “sad to see Old Chicago go — but at the same time there’s no guarantee it will go.”

The Days’ plan is in concept review, a non-mandatory step that offers applicants a “non-binding opportunity to begin a dialogue with staff, the community and the planning board” about potential projects, according to language from the city’s planning department

“In a nutshell, it gives developers and architects a chance to get feedback from everyone and ‘test’ ideas and designs before they invest too much time and energy in a project that might not be approved,” said Michael Davidson, a Boulder spokesman.

The plan is scheduled to go before the Planning Board on Sept. 1.

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