Tryba Architects Honors the Late Joyce Meskis

Tattered Cover Book Store Owner Brought Mercantile Square to Life


Tryba Architects wishes to express our sorrow at the passing of our dear friend Joyce Meskis, whose vision helped transform Lower Downtown from an aging warehouse district into an active and vibrant neighborhood. We were honored to partner with Joyce in 1996 to revitalize Mercantile Square, the first multi-building, mixed-use adaptive redevelopment in Lower Downtown.

Joyce’s legacy is the Tattered Cover Book Store. She purchased the business in 1974, setting up her first store in Cherry Creek. Tattered Cover grew to multiple locations thanks to Joyce’s innovative business model, which invited customers to linger and enjoy the book-browsing experience. She pioneered the concept of the bookstore coffee shop, and installed cozy antique furniture and extra-wide staircases to encourage patrons to sit, read and relax. Large national chains based their own business models on Joyce’s concepts for Tattered Cover.

Joyce was not afraid to take risks. Despite being warned that multi-level retail stores discouraged customers, she decided to try it anyway…and both the four-story Cherry Creek store (with its top-rated Fourth Story Restaurant & Bar) and the three-story LoDo store were immensely popular and successful. 

Yet one of Joyce’s most important legacies may be her dedication to historic preservation, and her talent for blending old and new to create timeless places that embrace the future. Her love for Downtown inspired her to open a second store on 16th Street in the historic Morey Mercantile Building– a bold move that took real imagination. She partnered with John Hickenlooper and other visionaries who shared her dream for what the historic neighborhood could achieve. Together, they worked to secure financing and transform the six historic warehouses anchored by the Tattered Cover into Mercantile Square. 

Joyce imagined much more than a place for her bookstore. She desired to create a true mixed-use community featuring local, independent retail stores accompanied by market-rate rental lofts that their employees could afford. Tryba Architects was honored to have been selected by Joyce and her partners to bring this idea to life. We eagerly joined in the project based on our shared belief in the value of preservation and adaptive reuse to create new, contextual and revitalized urban places. 

Joyce’s bold imagination guided the development of Mercantile Square toward becoming a national model for adaptive reuse, sustainability, placemaking, and the creation of affordable housing. The 1993 project served as the catalyst for the revitalization of this neglected area of downtown—what became known as LoDo and one of the city’s earliest Historic Districts.  

While the Tattered Cover was eventually sold and moved out of the Mercantile building, LoDo and Mercantile Square have remained a national model for the then-radical idea that stewardship of history and the built environment could be the foundation for the city’s future. We honor Joyce for her important role in that legacy.