The Colorado Springs Independent

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First a church and then a theater, the building at 235 S. Nevada Ave. has undergone many changes since its construction in 1912.
Now housing the Colorado Springs Independent newspaper, the building’s interior design work won a citation from the American Institute of Architect’s Colorado Springs branch.
“Using simple common material, this renovation creates a dynamic place to work” said Gregory Friesen, principal judge for the competition. “The character of the project seems to convey the messy vitality of working for an independent newspaper. Privacy is provided while maintaining opportunities to interact and socialize. The project is a good lesson in how to add a contemporary layer to an historic building.”
The Independent won in the interior architecture category for small businesses. The materials selected for the project integrated the historic uses of the building with the contemporary office space of the newspaper. The stage and proscenium were integrated into office space; stairs and exiting were added as well.
The interior architects, Michael Collins and interior designer Jean Sebben, exposed the stained glass in the sanctuary and restored the original trim, railings, stair and pilaster capitals.
Also working on the project were G.M. Nagel, Jordan Electric, Sol Chavez & Associates, and Murphy Constructors.
“Future office expansion may occur between trusses via stairs connecting catwalks,” explained the nomination form. “Office expansion below the sanctuary floor includes outdoor amphitheater for conferences, exiting, light gathering and presentations.”
Sebben, who remodeled the interior space, said the biggest priority was creating an open space that still gave reporters privacy to conduct phone calls.
“It needed to be an open environment,” she said. “It’s an historic building, but we used a relatively contemporary design. It was a collaboration between us and the architects. We created a scheme that accented the historical architecture that was here.”
Collins said his firm designed a modern office space that fit inside the original sanctuary, leveling the floor to the level of the church’s alter, and leaving the lighting installed when the building housed the Smokebrush Theater.
“We reused the original choir loft,” Collins said. “It was re-exposed and preserved. The art department is up there now. So basically, we created a two story office enclosure within the original sanctuary.”
Collins also used reflective siding of galvanized steel on some of the walls and cubicles, to create a modern feel. Bright colors decorate the walls and the only pictures are framed Independent covers.
“It’s quite modern in feel,” he said. “We kept the high ceilings of the church, and created open cubicles for the staff. Some of the walls for the cubicles are 16 feet high. We don’t like ceilings, so we left the original ceiling in place.”
Collins said his work at the Independent is not yet finished. He left room for expansion, and has plans for a grassy amphitheater on the outside. He also plans to renovate the outside – removing some of the paint left by the Smokebrush and restoring the columns to their original color.
Amy Gillentine