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Plans to renovate historic Johnson's Corner gas station win initial nod

“We are really envisioning this being a place where people can enjoy it, much like a creative monastery. We want to bring Johnson’s Corner to its former glory,” developer David Nassar said of the station now located in the Prospect neighborhood.
Developer David Nassar has plans to renovate the historic Johnson's Corner gas station, now located in the Prospect neighborhood. (Photo by Silvia Romero Solis)

A revered and reviled Longmont landmark is headed for renovation by a local developer who wants to turn the historic Johnson’s Corner gas station into a place for poets, artists and anyone else who wants to enjoy a good conversation with the best wine and food.

“We are really envisioning this being a place where people can enjoy it, much like a creative monastery,” David Nassar said last week. “We want to bring Johnson’s Corner to its former glory.”

Nassar and his two sons, Zachary and Weston, along with in-house counsel Devin Visciano, took a step forward in their multi-million dollar rejuvenation of Johnson’s Corner earlier this month. Their application for a certificate of appropriateness won approval from the Longmont’s Historic Preservation Commission.

The designation means Nassar's proposed plans for Johnson’s Corner in the Prospect neighborhood are compatible historically with the structure, which is a designated landmark in Longmont, Jade Kruger, associate planner for the city, said in an email.

The project still must earn approval from other departments and get building permits to start work, Kruger said. Nassar said the renovation, once approved, will take about a year.

“This will not be rushed,” he said. “We want to do this right and well.”

Nassar’s company specializes in high-end custom homes including in Copper Mountain and Caribou Ridge in Boulder County. The company does commercial endeavors as well, such as FLIGHT, Erie’s multi-use Aviation and Light Industrial Park, according to its website.

“We are really involved in a lot of creative projects,” said Nassar, who moved to Prospect earlier this year and met with Kiki Wallace, who bought and in 2003 moved Johnson’s Corner from its original site on Main Street to Prospect.

Wallace could not get funding to restore the gas station. Nassar bought Johnson’s Corner last month and told Wallace he could do something with the building. 

“I really like to restore and rework old things,” said Nassar, a history buff who also owns a winery in Napa Valley. “I think we can keep this vintage building alive.”

Nassar said he admires the architect of Johnson’s Corner — Colorado’s Eugene Groves — who specialized in reinforced concrete design. Johnson’s Corner was built in 1937 and served customers from all over Longmont, including Hispanics.

“That was rarity back in those days and I think it carries an awesome message,” Nassar said. “I am really fond of that.”

Beat writer Jack Kerouac mentioned stopping off at Johnson’s Corner in his book “On the Road.” 

“There he was, stretched out, enjoying the sights and sounds of Longmont,” Nassar said. “That spirit also needs to be preserved.”  

Nassar also is aware of critics who wanted Johnson’s Corner razed because it was dilapidated and the target of vandals 

“I want to build something that will let people forget the bad feelings built up about Johnson’s Corner,” Nassar said. “This is something that could be totally unique for Longmont.”

He wants the building expanded keeping the same materials and design. He said he sees it as a cultural center for arts classes, lectures and also a place where people could relax with wine and food. Nassar also wants to take advantage of the nearby community swimming pool.

He said he envisions writers like Jon Krakauer coming to Johnson’s Corner for readings.

“We want to enhance and keep the history around the building,” Nassar said. “It’s so rich with history, it needs to thrive.”

CORRECTION: writer Jon Krakauer