Merging with or acquiring a small business often means taking possession of the business’ real estate, and sometimes this means the new owner is stuck with a lease or outright ownership of a building that doesn’t suit its needs. It may seek to renovate, or demolish and rebuild a structure in order to make it more practical for its business.
And here is where zoning and many other complicated real estate law issues can interfere with even the best business plans.
Denver was the scene of an unusual example of this problem recently when the longtime owner of Tom’s Diner found his plans endangered by a move to protect the distinctive architecture of the 1960s-era building. The owner told news reporters he planned to sell the building for $4.8 million. The reported buyer plans to demolish the diner and construct an eight-story apartment building on the site, which sits at the corner of Colfax Avenue and Pearl Street.
Preservationists protested the plan, saying the diner is a great example of Googie architecture, a mid-century style inspired by the Space Age and other hallmarks of post-war America. Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission asked the city to intervene by giving the site protected status as a historical landmark.
The fight over this move raged for weeks and gathered national and international attention. It appeared to subside on Aug. 15, when the Landmark Preservation Commission announced it was backing down, and the Denver Community Planning and Development Office announced it would issue a certificate of non-historic status.
The case of Tom’s Diner, like its architecture, may be nearly unique, but it helps illustrate how small business owners can benefit from the help of an attorney with experience in many aspects of the law.