Living the high life: Denver's Stapleton International Airport closed in 1995 and all the buildings were demolished -- except one: the air traffic control tower. Now this iconic Colorado building has been transformed into an outpost of Denver-based "eatertainment" company Punch Bowl Social.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
Entertainment in the skies: The company's outlets combine diner-style food, bowling, karaoke and more. "It was an exciting opportunity to give back to our home state of Colorado," Robert Thompson, founder and CEO of Punch Bowl, tells CNN Travel. Pictured here: the building's transformation in progress.
Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
Giving back to Denver: Punch Bowl is an award-winning, millennial-focused brand with a penchant for creativity and regeneration. "Until we partnered with Punch Bowl Social," says Stone, managing principal of OZ Architecture. "No one had ever brought a feasible idea to the table."
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
Rewarding challenge: The reinvention project was a rewarding challenge for Thompson and his team. "Maintaining [the tower's] height and design honors its historic significance, but the height and design was also limiting in some ways, so we needed to develop more creative and unusual ideas for how to use the space," says Rebecca Stone, Managing Principal at OZ Architecture, who worked on the project.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
Design-led project: "We were also excited from a commercial standpoint about how we could apply our concept model blending entertainment, scratch kitchen and craft beverage -- altogether in a design-led environment in such a great building," adds Thompson.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
Stunning views: The newly renovated tower harks back to its past with aviation-orientated cocktails and stunning views of the former airport below. "There is a light fixture that subtly includes the roman numerals of the date Stapleton Airport opened, and the dining room tables are designed in a way that when pushed together offer an abstract image of a runway," says Stone.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
Flashback to the future: Other hark backs include "custom wall coverings representing the view from 30,000 feet, as well as a hostess stand made from vintage steamer trunks, and a staircase railing with airplane cutouts," adds Stone. Pictured here: the airport tower when the airport was operational.
Courtesy Denver Aviation System
Long time coming: Stapleton Tower reopened its doors in November 2017 -- 22 years after it closed. The renovation took three years to get off the ground. "The design required enormous attention to the integrity and space of the building itself," says Stone. "As well as the expertise to get it through the inevitable hurdles."
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social

Denver airport tower converted to restaurant

(CNN) — It once steered aircraft around the skies, but now a neglected air traffic control tower in Denver is steering diners around its menus.
The tower, all that remains of the long-gone Stapleton International airport, has been transformed into an "eatertainment" venue for Denver-based company Punch Bowl Social.
This renovation combines diner-style food, bowling, karaoke and stunning views of Denver below.
"It was an exciting opportunity to give back to our home state of Colorado, and these are truly the last assembled bricks of the old airport that was so omnipresent in Denver for decades," Robert Thompson, founder and CEO of Punch Bowl, tells CNN Travel.

Repurposing the past

The abandoned airport tower has been transformed.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
Since Stapleton closed down in 1995, numerous proposals were put forward for ways of bringing the tower into the 21st century.
Keen to avoid demolition, the city eventually approached Punch Bowl Social, which was excited by the challenge and the chance to give back to the community.
"Designing and reusing a former airport tower is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance an iconic municipal structure while revitalizing that which was once abandoned," says Rebecca Stone, managing principal at OZ Architecture, who worked on the project on behalf of Punch Bowl.
Eatertainment company Punch Bowl Social have repurposed the tower.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
The company has also revitalized a dilapidated old Denver building and is currently renovating a 1924 San Diego boxing ring.
"Until we partnered with Punch Bowl Social, no one had ever brought a feasible idea to the table -- something that could actually be done with reasonable resources. That's where OZ got extremely creative, and extremely technical," adds Stone.

Flying high

Stapleton Tower, photographed when the airport was operational.
Courtesy Denver Aviation System
The developers were keen to ensure the building's historic exterior remained intact, but that wasn't without its difficulties.
"Maintaining [the tower's] height and design honors its historic significance, but the height and design was also limiting in some ways, so we needed to develop more creative and unusual ideas for how to use the space," says Stone.
The tower's original exterior material was repurposed and used on the interior walls while many design elements of the 32,000 square feet space hark back to the golden age of jet setting in the 1920s and '30s.
The tower's new interior offers stunning views.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
The tower's former life is also referenced in the culinary offerings, including aviation-themed cocktails, while the interior fixtures will also remind guests of its illustrious past.
Features include wall coverings representing the view from 30,000 feet, a hostess stand made from vintage steamer trunks, and dining room tables designed to represent an abstract image of a runway when pushed together.

Open for business

The repurposed interior harks back to the golden age of aviation.
Courtesy Amber Boutwell, Punch Bowl Social
As of November 2017, the newly imagined Stapleton Tower is open for business -- breathing new life into a former Denver icon.
The developers hope the tower will keep the city at the forefront of creativity and regeneration.
"For architects and developers, the chance to innovate and design a project like the old, abandoned tower that was the only remaining structure of the old Stapleton Airport has been a thrilling opportunity," says Stone.
"But the greatest satisfaction will come from continuing to position Denver as one of the country's leaders for creative and successful adaptive reuse projects."
Read more
More from CNN Travel