Durangoans who fought to retain the veranda at the former Francisco’s restaurant on Main Avenue in Durango can rejoice: City officials and the building owners have struck a compromise that will keep the covered walkway in place.
A memo from city staff released Friday indicates the veranda can stay based on several key points:
It is not considered new construction.The Spanish Colonial style is unique and not adequately covered in design guidelines.The Design Review Board determined city guidelines could be met through other means than the veranda’s removal.“We sat down with city staff and worked together to find something they thought would be OK, and they worked with us on a compromise,” said Rob Sachs of Sachs Construction, who is representing the property owners. “The city has a set of guidelines and they were doing their job, and I think they heard what the public was looking for.”
Earlier this month, the Design Review Board denied design proposals that preserved the veranda’s Spanish Colonial look. City officials argued that the fixture is devoid of historic value and fails to meet city design guidelines.
The news hit a nerve with the public, which subsequently flooded social media and The Durango Herald’s Opinion section with words of defense for the veranda.
As pro-veranda Herald reader Lorraine Trenholm posted on the website: “Durango was founded in 1881. Anything here for 50 years has been here for a significant portion of this town’s history. Yes, there is Spanish influence – why are we trying to ‘neutralize’ everything in this town? Where is our Western character and history?”
Mary Lou Sprowle, another online commenter, wrote: “Why do towns work so hard to destroy any historical structure that defines the town in the first place? That veranda has been there as long as I can recall ... a distinctive part of Main Street, Durango, Colorado. We have become a tear-down society ... how very sad.”
Community Development Director Greg Hoch said the compromise had nothing to do with public response and everything to do with city regulations.
“How much did public pushback enter our decision-making? Really, none,” he said Friday. “We have guidelines that we follow in our decision-making, and we adhere to those guidelines. I think this compromise reflects not only the integrity of our process but the integrity of the Design Review Board.”
Plans are underway to remodel the single, existing building into three separate suites for possible retail and food service businesses.
City staff asked developers to consider that fact in their designs.
“They’re creating three businesses under one portico, and it puts those businesses at a disadvantage, unless you take design steps to consider that,” Hoch said. “The solution was: emphasize graphically in your design how there are three businesses under this one portal.”
According to Sachs, contractors will do a minor reconfiguration of the parapet to improve the backdrop for future businesses’ signage, lower the existing windowsills and create separate storefront doors.
The stucco facade will be refinished but remain the same. If it had been removed, it would have meant the most significant facade change to a Main Avenue storefront in nearly 20 years.
Francisco’s Restaurante y Cantina was opened in 1968 by owners Francisco and Claudine Garcia. They sold the business in 2013, which closed a year later, but the Garcias retained ownership of the property.
Sachs did not have a specific time frame but said remodeling will begin as soon as city staff grant a permit.