Former Grand Avenue Mall in Glenwood now ready for tenants |

Former Grand Avenue Mall in Glenwood now ready for tenants

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentAfter four years of vacancy following a fire, the newly restored building at 812 Grand Avenue in downtown Glenwood Springs, formerly the Grand Avenue Mall, is back open for business and awaiting tenants.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Glenwood attorney Pete Rachesky and his staff at the Defiance Law Firm are back in familiar digs.

The firm recently returned to its previous office space on the second floor of the newly renovated former Grand Avenue Mall building at 812 Grand Ave., following completion of the restoration project by building owner Israel Shapira.

“I inquired with Israel, and it turned out it was going to be ready at the opportune time for us to move back,” said Rachesky, whose offices had been in the nearby U.S. Bank building since a March 2006 fire caused major smoke damage to the Grand Avenue Mall, forcing all of its tenants to leave.

“I’m glad to be back, it’s like home,” Rachesky said Tuesday, amid piles of boxes still waiting to be unpacked.

Shapira, a Carbondale-based structural engineer who has done numerous building renovations and new construction in the area, threw a party last week to celebrate the completion of the year-long effort to bring the late 19th century building back to life.

“I love my work, and I really looked forward to coming here every morning,” Shapira said of the project, which initially involved uncovering the original brick exterior on the front of the building, which had been covered for close to 50 years by an inch of concrete because it had started to deteriorate.

Shapira purchased the Grand Avenue Mall building in June of last year, after the property had sat idle for more than three years following the fire. Much of the building’s 15,000-square-foot interior was severely damaged by smoke.

“It was more of a smoke issue than fire, because nothing really burned,” he said. “When we came in here everything was stripped, so we had a real chance to take a look at it and see what we could do.”

The building’s historical character was maintained on the outside, but inside it’s mostly brand new, from the walls and much of the woodwork to the mechanical systems. However, some things on the inside were salvageable.

“There is a mix of old and new even on the inside,” Shapira said. “What we couldn’t use we fabricated to be the same as it was.”

Now, the building, which he is calling the 812 Grand Avenue Building instead of anything too fancy, is ready to be occupied.

Shapira is in negotiations with other prospective tenants for the additional second-floor space. Another 5,000 square feet of finished office or studio space, currently partitioned into two spaces, is also available on the lower level, which has a separate entrance off the main stairwell that didn’t exist before the fire.

“I hope to keep that in two spaces, but we could make it four,” he said of the lower level. “I haven’t showed it yet, but it will be reasonable because it is on the lower level.”

Shapira is also in the process of hiring a general manager for the building to market and lease the available space.

The centerpiece of the building is the 5,000-square-foot main floor, which Shapira envisions as being ideal for a nice restaurant, possibly with music and dancing, or possibly even a dinner theater.

“I really think it could be more than a restaurant,” he said. “I came from New York where I lived for 25 years, and we had a lot of tremendous places like that, where the wait and kitchen staff were part of the show.”

If that idea doesn’t came to pass, the main floor could also serve as storefront retail space, he said.

In the meantime before he finds an anchor tenant, Shapira has another plan. A pingpong table now sits in the middle of the open main floor, where he and his work crew would play games to take a break from the tedious work.

“I’d like to get a few more tables and have some pingpong tournaments,” he said. “We don’t have anything like that, and I think it would be a lot of fun.”

Shapira’s 30-year resume includes a number of impressive projects, including having a hand in refurbishing New York City’s Grand Central Station in the mid 1980s, and working on the Statue of Liberty renovation from 1984-86.

Locally, he and his co-worker Erich Vogt remodeled the Midland Building in Rifle in 2004, and also constructed the new Rifle Mercantile Building a couple of years later. Shapira owns both of those buildings.

He also purchased and renovated the historic Taylor House, which now includes 11 condominium units, at 903 Bennett Ave. in Glenwood Springs.

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