On our way back from Boulder to Denver International Airport on Sunday morning, Brendan and I stopped by the Stapleton development in Denver to see the old Stapleton International Airport control tower. This handsome and historic structure is pretty much all that is left of this major airport once located on the east side of the city and which closed some 18 years ago. The tower is gradually being surrounded by new housing, parks, and commercial development. It’s lonely fenced-in position amid scrub-grasses, weeds, and prairie wildflowers leaves one to wonder what should be done with such an iconic feature that remains clearly visible from the nearby expressways. Here are a few suggestions I have for adaptive reuse of this iconic facility:
- National Air Traffic Control Museum – in today’s security conscious environment, visiting/touring an operating control tower is an unlikely scenario in the United States. What’s better than a former tower to fill that void? Denver’s rich aviation history is the perfect backdrop for such a facility and it would generate tourism for areas hotels, restaurants, and other attractions.
- National Air Travel Museum – a variation of the idea listed above, though whether there is enough land for representative passenger aircraft may now be an issue. Somewhere there needs to be a repository of information air travel history, including all the airlines that have flown our skies.
- Stapleton Community Visitor’s Center and Museum – showcase the history of the airport and the redevelopment of Stapleton by utilizing the former control tower.
- Stapleton Skylight Show – offering a nightly or weekly skylighting program using the control tower as the center piece of the event. Between shows, use the control tower as an observation overlook.
- National Air Travel Hall of Fame – a hall of fame dedicated to passenger aviation.
- National Aviation Memorial – a solemn memorial dedicated to those who have lost their lives while flying.
Denver deserves much praise for its efforts to redevelop and revitalize the former airport site. Converting the old Stapleton control tower into an active and vibrant reminder of that once-great international airport can serve as the crown jewel in the city’s revitalization efforts on this preeminent site.
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