DENVER — Historic Denver is leading an effort to preserve and redevelop the decommissioned Zuni Steam Plant in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood.
The plant opened in 1901 using what was considered state-of-the-art equipment for electricity production. The plant burned coal, prompting pollution problems in the neighborhood — an issue that is still present in the community.
“We have this sort of difficult history where, you know, steam plants would sometimes be put into underserved communities. But there's an opportunity now to create a community-serving asset out of this plant... it helped kind of fuel the growth of West Denver, residential growth, industrial growth. And so, it played an important role in the development of the city,” said Michael Flowers, Historic Denver's director of preservation action. “It's a big industrial space. A lot of [steam plants] have been, you know, reused across the country. There's a lot of examples of old steam plants, old industrial buildings being turned into something great.”
More than 30 community organizations have joined Historic Denver in calling for the reimagining of the Zuni Steam Plant, including Meow Wolf Denver.
“The steam plant has been a landmark for decades in this neighborhood. It's easily recognizable by everyone. And it's right in the middle of all, of this talk of redevelopment. Of course, we have a lot going on in Sun Valley. We have the stadium district, Ball Arena, River Mile, Burnham Yard that are all looking to revitalize this industrialized area. And we really believe that this building can be reimagined into a jewel in the center of this redevelopment,” said Jeanne Granville, president of the Sun Valley Community Coalition.
Granville said ideas for revitalizing the property include a food hub or public market.
“Initially, Xcel envisioned demolition, and the community did speak up and said, ‘No, we'd like to do preservation and some form of adaptive reuse,'” Granville said. “Other than its historic value, just from a reuse purpose and demolition purpose, that's a lot of waste… we also have members of the development community, architects, developers that said this is really worth taking a hard look at, and not just letting this opportunity slip away. This is an iconic building. It has a lot of history here in the neighborhood. And it really, while it doesn't look like a lot now, has the potential to really be a crowning jewel.”
Historic Denver sent a letter to Denver Mayor Mike Johnston and Denver City Council requesting help to preserve the property and hopes to meet with city leaders soon.