Renovation/Restoration: Best Project: Archetype Distillery
Owner: Archetype Holdings LLC
Owners Rep.: Corum Real Estate
Lead Design Firm: Architectural Workshop
General Contractor: Saunders Construction
Structural Engineer: KL&A Inc.
Civil Engineer: Jansen Strawn Consulting Engineers (Ware Malcomb)
MEP Engineer: Ramirez, Johnson and Associates LLC
Key Subcontractors: Dalkita Architecture & Construction; Murphy Co.; Wayne’s Electric
The old Webber Theater on South Broadway in Denver was built in 1917. It started as a silent movie palace but eventually resorted to showing adult films and then, for years after it closed, sat run-down and vacant.
What a difference redevelopment can make. Today, the building is a bustling boutique distillery for spirits where customers sample gin and vodka in the tasting room, which doubles as an event space and showcases local art. Visitors can even get a glimpse of the distilling process.
The design, described as “elegant industrial,” preserves much of the building’s 100-year-old brickwork while adding sharp, modern sensibilities in metal and wood. A stone-top bar contains LED lights that change colors. A “bubble wall” sits behind the bar, and the distilling equipment is visible behind it.
The plan to have the distilling operations in public view required extra care and coordination. The team ensured that locations and runs of the piping looked neat and clean, and the plumber added aluminum jacketing to the PVC pipes to maintain a rustic, industrial aesthetic to complement the look of the stills.
Construction challenges were many. For starters, only brick walls supported two sides of the building. That meant shoring and bracing the walls as well as removing and rebuilding the roof. With the original structure braced, crews built a new interior steel-frame structure to support the roof and wall assemblies—all while delicately preserving the old brick. In addition, the original Webber Theater marquee sign required a temporary column to support it until a cantilevered steel beam was installed.
Adding to the challenges, Archetype is one of the few vodka and gin distilleries to be built within the city and county of Denver. The Denver Fire Dept. has fire and safety codes for breweries, but specific codes for distilleries were non-existent. DFD used this project as its model to develop new codes, which involved weekly fire inspections for two months, with many ad-hoc changes required.
Even with the many construction and administrative issues, the project eventually came to life—and the imaginative reuse project is literally raising Denver’s spirits.