The production company behind “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” is on the move, although not to Flavortown.
Citizen Pictures, which has produced the Food Network show hosted by Guy Fieri since 2011, has sold its 15,000-square-foot office building at 2800 Speer Blvd. and leased space about half the size in Boulder.
The deal means that the Chevy Camaro that Fieri drives on the show will no longer be unceremoniously stashed between taping in a building at the edge of LoHi.
“It was housed in the (sound) stage,” Citizen founder and owner Frank Matson said. “We pull it on a trailer around the country for every show.”
Matson founded Citizen in Denver in 1984 and moved the company to the 2800 Speer building in 1998. He paid $550,000 for it that year, records show, and later spent a combined $617,000 for several largely undeveloped parcels across an alleyway along Firth Court.
At one point, Matson said, he thought he might redevelop the site himself — maybe build an apartment building with office space used by Citizen on the ground floor. But he decided against that.
“It was much more risk than I wanted,” he said.
Instead, this week, Matson sold the whole site to San Francisco-based apartment developer Carmel Partners for $10 million. The deal works out to about $199 a square foot for the 1.16-acre site. Capstone brokers Travis Hodge and Tony Bobay represented the seller.
A local Carmel executive did not respond to a request for comment. The company — which is also developing several projects in RiNo — submitted a concept plan to the city for the site in December, proposing a five-story, 184-unit project, records show. The site is already zoned for five stories.
Matson cited several reasons for the sale and move to Boulder.
First, there was property taxes. He said his annual tax bill was under $20,000 a year back in the late 90s, and now is around $250,000.
“Clearly the city over time wants bigger developers to come in that can amortize that over 200 units or so,” he said.
Then there’s the fact that the nature of Citizen’s work shifted starting about 15 years ago, Matson said.
“We used to be in the advertising agency side of things, doing a lot of post-production for agencies,” he said. “Over time, that’s evolved to doing a lot of production for networks.”
That’s meant some of the building’s features are no longer needed, he said. For example, there’s a 40-foot-by-50-foot soundstage with high ceilings.
“We found over time that we weren’t shooting much in there,” Matson said. “So, it was underutilized space.”
Additionally, more employees are working remotely and don’t need to be in the office every day. And it doesn’t hurt that the 66-year-old Matson moved to Boulder for college and never stopped living there.
“I’ve been doing the commute since 1979,” he said.
While Citizen works on more than just “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” there’s no question it’s the company’s most recognizable job. Matson said the firm had been doing some other work for the Food Network when the company wanted to make a production change on Fieri’s show.
“They gave us a call one day and basically dropped it in our lap,” he said. “That was 11 years ago and we’re approaching 450 episodes produced.”