Many people who take the time to explore Trinidad fall in love with the city’s brick streets and historic charm at first sight. Denver developer Dana Crawford is one of those Trinidad-lovers and is now the owner of 10 buildings in the Corazon de Trinidad Historic District. Her company, Urban Neighborhoods, Inc., is working on a pre-development agreement with the City to revitalize the city-owned Fox-West Theatre, located at 423 W. Main St., though the agreement is not yet finalized.
Crawford talked about her love for Trinidad in a Wednesday, February 6 phone interview, describing the possibilities that she saw in Trinidad. “When I first drove into Trinidad and saw the grand Victorian buildings and brick streets I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I like to work in communities with a sense of place and Trinidad definitely has that. At Urban Neighborhoods we try to collaborate with communities that have unique and special qualities that make them stand out, and as the southern gateway to Colorado Trinidad has many of those qualities that we’re looking for.”
Her company has been doing a lot of research into the history of the Fox – West Theatre, including conversations with the Sawaya family members who owned and operated the theatre for many years. Crawford said the building was structurally sound but the uppermost balcony might have to be permanently closed off, thus reducing its seating from the original 1,200 seats down to 650 seats.
She said a complete restoration of the theatre could cost $8 million or more, something that wasn’t possible given the financial resources available for such a project. “We prefer to think of it as a rehabilitation project rather than a complete restoration,” she said. “The idea is to take a structure built in 1906 and rehabilitate it for use in the 21st Century, so it would still be here in the century after that. There could be some pain along the way, and a whole lot of money will need to be raised but it can be done. The acoustics are perfect.”
There was plenty of interest in the theatre’s rehabilitation among other property owners within the historic district, she noted, adding that it could be utilized as a civic center, playing host to movie and music festivals, theatre festivals or corporate retreats.
Crawford is an award-winning preservationist who initiated a concept of urban renewal that was among the first of its kind in the United States, according to her website at: www.danacrawford.net. She pioneered the redevelopment of Denver’s historic Larimer Square in the mid 1960s, creating a festival shopping area from the neglected and abandoned buildings of Denver’s original Main Street. Larimer Square today serves as a shining example of a prototype for the revitalization of neglected main streets and architectural landmarks throughout the country.
Crawford has redeveloped more than 800,000 square-feet of historic property in the city of Denver since the 1960s, including the Oxford Hotel, the Acme Lofts, the Edbrooke Lofts and the Cooper Flats Condominiums. She completed Phase One of the Four Mill project, converting an abandoned flour mill into unique loft spaces for the sophisticated urbanite. She’s remained steadfast in her belief that core cities can be made livable again. Now, in partnership with her son, Jack Crawford, she’s developing Prospect Park, a mixed-use, master planned village in Denver’s Central Platte Valley.
Outside of the business world, she’s devoted much of her time to both local and national concerns, serving for nine years on the board of directors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, six of those years on its executive committee. The National Trust awarded her their highest honor in 1995, the distinguished Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award. She now serves on the board of Project for Public Spaces.
In recognition of her civic contributions, business successes, and the positive influence she has had on the architectural character of Denver, she was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 1997. That same year, in honor of her many years of community service, she was presented with the prestigious Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Award, also known as the “Colorado Nobel Prize.” In 1998, the Denver Business Journal recognized Crawford as one of 20 people who have made a difference to Denver’s business success in the twentieth century.
Her devotion to redeveloping Historic Downtown Trinidad, along with the work of Jay Cimino’s Downtown Trinidad Development Group, offers plenty of hope for Trinidad’s future. Crawford said those people driving past the city on Interstate 25 and stopping to explore it are making a big mistake, in her opinion. “I talk about Trinidad to my friends all the time and they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah. We stopped there for a tank of gas and a cup of coffee.’ I encourage them to pull off the highway and take the North Commercial Street exit the next time they’re in the Trinidad area. If they take the time to explore Trinidad’s Historic Downtown District, they will find one of the great jewels of Southern Colorado.”