EDITOR’S DESK: What you see is what we got
This is the umpteenth in an occasional series in this column titled “Yes, you can fight city hall... sometimes.” The case in point is the just-opened KFC/A&W restaurant
at 31st Street and Colorado Avenue. If you like the way it looks, then you might be interested in knowing it didn't happen by accident.
The Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) gets kudos in a business article this issue for having taken the lead on the project's aesthetics, and this is no exaggeration. The group began discussing the pros and cons in February 2005 - soon after the Harman Management Corporation's plans had been submitted to the city. But it should be noted that OWN was not alone. Some nearby residents also stepped up, joining OWN in questioning the lack of historical compatibility in the building design, not to mention Harman's desire for a 40-foot sign on Colorado Avenue. Modesty aside, the Westside Pioneer was involved as well, reporting on the details and asking City Planning why the Westside Plan should not apply. "Let the KFC be built, but let it be on terms that Westsiders can live with," we wrote in this column at that time. Fortunately, the "fight" never really got bloody. Harman agreed to a more neighbor-friendly building - actually the first of its kind in Colorado - and to put only a small sign on the avenue. By the end of planning discussions, OWN was on Harman's side, pushing the city and state to be less obstructionist.
True, what's out there today is just a fast food place, not a grand Victorian. But it is certainly better-looking than it could have been, and it's instructive to realize that company officials were willing to work with the neighborhood. But first they needed to know what the community desire was. If you ever get a chance, check out the McDonald's in Freeport, Maine. Citizens there would not let Ronald & Co. open their doors until their building looked pretty much like a seaside shanty. It's a shame OWN and Westside citizens didn't make such demands on past fast-food outfits along Colorado Avenue. But that was then. The KFC victory sets a precedent for future such encounters, and it shows that we can win.