Reed Sparks is firing up a new restaurant and music venue on South Broadway.
The 33-year-old Denver resident is in the midst of renovating a 24,000-square-foot building, built in the 1940s, at 476 S. Broadway in Wash Park West. It was previously home to LeGrue’s, a flower shop and year-round Christmas store that operated for 50 years.
Sparks is calling his business BurnDown, a reference to a fire in 1978 that destroyed much of the building’s interior, leaving a hole in the center that has been incorporated into the design as a three-story atrium.
“We figured we might as well embrace the past,” Sparks said. “Normally, when things burn down, they fall down. So, to have a burned down building that’s still standing, we wanted to try to bring it back to life.”
BurnDown, which he hopes to open in the fall, will have three stories, plus a rooftop deck and 6,000 square feet of office space, which Sparks hopes to rent out. The light-filled atrium makes the whole building feel connected. Each floor features balconies and terraces.
The 7,500-square-foot first floor will feature a large curved bar in the middle of the atrium and a restaurant. Sparks said he plans to serve classic bar food, like wings and burgers, and his business partner and chef Eric Navratil is creating a menu with a twist on different cuisines.
A large stage will be in the center of the atrium, where the business plans to host local blues and jazz acts to start. The 5,000-square-foot second floor will be more of a lounge, with a bar and games such as pool, shuffleboard and darts.
On the 4,000-square-foot third floor, where the atrium stage is still visible, there will be an indoor and outdoor seating area, plus a bar. And a 1,500-square-foot rooftop deck will provide views of the Front Range.
“This neighborhood needs a big destination spot, someplace you bring your out-of-town friends, instead of taking them to RiNo and the Highlands,” Sparks said. “Being so close to Wash Park is huge, and we’re super easy to get to since we’re near the highway and light rail. When Avanti opened there was not much around it, and it kind of boomed around them, and hopefully the same will happen here.”
Sparks has been wanting to open his own restaurant since he got into the hospitality industry in 2013. He used to work for a New York City insurance firm, but decided that industry was too stiff for him.
So in 2012, he moved to Jackson Hole to become a ski bum and ended up staying there for six years. During his time there, he worked at Snake River Brewing, where he met Navratil.
“I was sick of working for other people and wanted to do my own thing,” Sparks said. “If you pick hospitality as your career, the ultimate goal is to open your own business.”
Sparks moved to Denver in 2018 to start his own business and be closer to his family, who had moved there from Atlanta. They also used to live in Denver in the ‘90s, he said.
He originally planned to open a brewery, but decided against it when he saw how saturated the market was here. Sparks found the South Broadway building from an online listing, and saw too much potential in it to let it go to waste.
“It had gone under contract three times with some developers, who wanted to turn it into apartments, but I think they realized how much work this was,” Sparks said. “For us, the walls and history had so much character, and we just had this crazy vision.”
Spark’s parents wanted to get involved, too. They purchased the Broadway building for $2.7 million in 2018, according to property records. Sparks said he plans to buy it back from them in four years.
“This has always been a dream of theirs, too,” he said.
Spark has also brought on his childhood friend, Alex Vickers, as a business partner. Vickers has lived here since 2016 and previously worked as a project manager.
The trio are spending around $8 million, mainly through loans, to renovate the 24,000-square-foot building, Sparks said. Construction began last year, and they’re hoping to open before Halloween at the latest. They’ve hired 1ine Studios to design the space, and Jordy Construction to complete the buildout.
“We didn’t know what we were getting into at all when we started this,” Sparks said. “I think we’re just insane. I’m young enough that if stuff doesn’t go right, it’s not the end of the world. But it’s exciting to build things that will hopefully be around for another 100 years.”
BurnDown will be open Tuesday through Sunday. The second floor will open at 11 a.m. to start and the other floors will open at 4 p.m.
“I can’t wait to shake up a margarita and put my hammer down,” Sparks said.