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
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.
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.
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 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
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.”