A long-vacant building widely considered a Westminster eyesore will soon be redeveloped into an apartment building. The Westminster City Council unanimously approved plans for Midland Lofts during their Oct. 9 meeting.
Developers said the 18 rental units will bring new life to what’s now called the Midland Building at Irving and 72nd streets. Built in 1973 as office space, and later housing a charter school, the brick, white-columned structure has more recently attracted squatters and graffiti vandals.
Illustrations show a redesigned exterior with a large common space, and developers described modern, energy-efficient units. The building will include eight spaces designed as live/work units on the ground floor, and 10 apartments on the second floor.
“We think by transforming this long-blighted site’s use and function, as well as design integrity, we will be enhancing the site itself as well as the surrounding community in a meaningful and economically viable way,” Praxis Design principal Nicholas Antonopoulos said during the public hearing on the project.
Plans call for restoring the brick façade and using new materials and features to bring the existing structure up to date. Antonopoulos described “generous balconies, permanent canopy covers, metal railings, new column supports and new cladding to complement the existing brick masonry.”
“This will give the building new dimension, depth and a distinctive quality that will bring it back to life,” he said.
Praxis is working with Metro Design Group on the project, and Metro’s Dennis Finn said the changes will be extensive, including work to correct site drainage and other issues.
Westminster citizens and councilors gave the project a thumbs up, though long-time resident John Palmer raised several concerns, including the impact of any previous illegal activity.
“We all know what’s been going on down there for years … the druggies, the homeless, down there with fentanyl, meth and god knows what else,” he said. “This unit needs to be cleaned up and certified before we start moving families or residents in.
“It’s not that I’m against the project. I just think there are several questions that need to be answered.”
Gus Nicholson, who owned the building from 2004 to 2018, spoke for the redevelopment. Under his ownership, the building housed Ricardo Flores Magon Academy charter school. Nicholson said when the school moved, it broke the lease, and a lawsuit ensued.
“As long as there were these things hanging over it, the net result was a vacant building,” he said. “There certainly have been homeless people who thought of it as a home, until they were chased out either by Westminster police, myself or the current owner.
“The idea of preserving the basic building is great because the building has solid bones. I can only see that it can enhance Westminster.”
Gerald Nunez, who lives near the building, is happy with the proposal.
“It’s been an eyesore for 7 to 10 years,” he said. “If it was lit up, bums wouldn’t come around as much. I believe it’ll be good for our community.”
Mayor Nancy McNally agreed.
“I’m always turning it in for graffiti, so I know the police department is going to be thrilled there’s something happening,” she said. “So thank you for bringing it forward.”
While this week’s vote was a major hurdle for the developer, it’s not the last. The developers must still get city approval for utilities, building, engineering and other permits.
“There are several more steps and reviews and approvals from the city prior to the start of construction,” Finn said. “I do not have a timeline for the opening of the new building.”