One of the oldest residences in present-day Lakewood and named for famed railroad president William A.H. Loveland, whose moniker also graces the Colorado city — the house has languished for decades. But that’s about to change, thanks to Lauren Coleman, owner of the soon-to-be-revamped White Swan Motel next door at 6060 West Colfax.
Coleman is in talks to purchase the Loveland House, with plans to turn it into the main hub and meeting area of the reimagined White Swan. She’s had designs on the property from the get-go, but she’s finally comfortable talking about it now that a handshake deal is in place.
From the confines of her newest venture, the Mellow Moon Motor Lodge, nestled in the San Luis Valley hamlet of Del Norte, Coleman could hardly contain her enthusiasm as she spoke about the potential upside that makes acquiring the Loveland House a temptation she simply couldn’t pass up.
“As of three or four weeks ago, I shook hands with the owner of our neighboring property, the Loveland House, to buy that property. I’ve been going after it for years. We’re going to restore it. We will not tear it down. It’s got a ton of history, and it’s just been sitting there abandoned forever,” Coleman said. “I could not be more excited that we get to bring it back to life.”
Although 2023 will likely be the last hurrah for the current incarnation of the White Swan, Coleman said she’s glad it can do a bit more good before its date with the wrecking ball next spring. Early in the pandemic, her company entered into an agreement with Jefferson County to house homeless women with children.
That arrangement, she said, has been one full of the ups and downs that might be expected when playing landlord to a population where many struggle with the effects of poverty, substance abuse and traumas big and small. But she feels grateful for the experience and is moving into the next chapter full of excitement.
She said she’s hoping to be awarded some grant money to help preserve the historic facade of the Loveland House. But because the property was never officially designated a historic landmark by the City of Lakewood, the design constraints that typically come with such a designation won’t apply to the interior: She’ll be free to create something her target guest demographic will love.
“The house will become the lobby for the hotel, and we will probably put in a commercial kitchen and a bar that will service the rest of the property. It’s going to be f-ing sweet!” she said. “On a Friday the 13th, in 2020, we lost all of our funding. So to have investors on board again, it’s really fun. Getting that deal [to buy Loveland House] across the finish line is something I’d like to have happen by August of this year. Once that’s up and running, it should serve as a catalyst, generating cash flow to support the hotel buildout.”
The burgeoning 40 West Arts District to the west, a close proximity to Meow Wolf, the rebirth of Casa Bonita and imminent safety improvements along West Colfax Avenue are just a few reasons that Coleman is excited about the area. She’s also hoping to entice new retailers and even a grocery chain to join her quest to make West Colfax as hip as the central stretch has become.
“It’s happening. And it’s going along in the direction I thought it would,” she says of the progress she’s seen, though she’s the first to admit that the struggle is real — and the area has a long way to go.
To do her part, Coleman says she’s secured funding for the overall project, which should come in with a budget of $25 million — a sharp increase from her original budget. Coleman thinks that the pandemic’s insistence that she push back on her initial development plan made the venture not just more expensive, but also more viable and a better asset for the neighborhood.
The new White Swan will have between 25 and 30 rooms, a greenhouse and events space, and retail spaces fronting Colfax.
“My hope would be that we could also pull in some sort of natural grocer. I love Locavore. That’s a bit too big for what I need, but I’d love to pull in that type of amenity for the area. Right now it’s kind of a food desert over there,” she said. “Pulling in other tenants is really going to help move the needle for the Colfax revival.”
Signs of despair are still plentiful nearby. The vacant, fenced-off and often graffiti-covered Blue Sky Motel that sits just across Colfax to the west of the White Swan bears witness. But will the big-dollar re-development that Coleman has planned for her property accelerate the type of gentrification that has pushed small businesses, creatives and low-income renters out of the way in places like Highland, RiNo and Uptown?
Lindsay Morrison, gallery manager at the neighboring Memento Mori Gallery, thinks the potential upsides outweigh the risk. “I just think this neighborhood would benefit a lot with added foot traffic,” Morrison says. “I guess, in a way, I think any potential downside is worth it to everyone to bring more people and money into the neighborhood.”
Morrison said her gallery’s owner chose the location, on the perimeter of Lamar Station Plaza (aka Casa Bonitaville), because he was hoping to see more development in the area.
Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul is also a big fan of what Coleman has planned, calling her vision for White Swan 2.0 a catalytic project for the West Colfax neighborhood.
“Her plan not only takes into account Lakewood’s history, with the Loveland House, but also the boom days of Lakewood with the White Swan Motel,” Paul says. “Those motels are cool, they’re eclectic, and I would love to see other people step in and buy them, turning them into things that can add to the corridor.”
In regard to the displacement of homeless families currently housed in the White Swan, Paul says that Jefferson County as a whole has a longer-term plan that should be much better for them than the short-term triage that motels provide.
“I would anticipate that by the time she’s ready to roll, we’re going to have better alternatives (for those families), including two navigation centers with transitional housing — one for the north part of the county and one for Lakewood,” he said.
Coleman plans to break ground on White Swan 2.0 in April 2024, but she’ll continue her partnership with Jeffco, sheltering homeless families in that property, through at least the end of 2023.