Raze it or save it? Take a poll at the end of this blog.
- Landowner seeks to raze former Beth Eden Baptist Church building.
- City says it might qualify as a historic building based on geography and style.
- RedPeak previously had the building under contract.
The owner of the former Beth Eden Baptist Church wants to tear down the building on Lowell Boulevard, which was in the bullseye of a legal zoning battle in Northwest Denver last year.
The building at 3241 Lowell Boulevard in West Highland, was one of three properties that 10 neighbors last year unsuccessfully tried to change the zoning, which allows five-story buildings to be constructed on the parcels.
Denver-based RedPeak Properties previously had the sites under contract. Mike Zoellner, president of RedPeak, could not be reached on Thursday.
After the neighbors lost the zoning lawsuit last year, and were assessed about $40,000 in court fees; the 10 neighbors appealed the decision.
However, both sides also have been quietly trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. The neighbors were members of a grassroots opposition group called No High Rises in West Highland.
On Tuesday, Tom Wootten, the landowner of the church site and two nearby parcels north of West 32nd Avenue on Meade Street and West Moncrieff Place, filed an application with Denver’s Department of Community Planning and Development seeking a Certificate of Non-Historic Status for the church. If the status is granted, it can be razed within five years.
The Planning Department, however, said the building has the “potential” to be designated as a landmark building. In 2012, a non-historic addition attached to the church building was razed, although some grassroots opponents tried to have it designated as a historic building to prevent demolition.
“This request…will allow for demolition of some or all of the existing building in favor of a newer, more sustainable structures which better accommodate current occupancy needs,” Brian J. Connolly, Wootten’s attorney wrote in his application request to the planning department.
Connolly, an attorney with Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti, argued that the church isn’t worth saving.
“There is significant confusion between current structure and the original Beth-Eden Church, built in 1893, which was on part of the same site,” Connolly said in the application.
The original building was demolished in 1929 or 1930, he said. School and meeting spaces were added in the 1940s and the 1950s and “unpermitted construction activities” in the 1950s “significantly modified the building interior transforming the original sanctuary into two stories of interior use.”
While the building is more than 30 years old, it has no “extraordinary importance to the architectural and historical development of Denver,” Connolly went on to say.
He said while the present structure has elements of a Tudor Revival architectural style, it displays a “significantly greater user of bricks” than is typical for that style. There are “undoubtedly better examples” of the Tudor Revival style in Denver, he said.
He said while a few have credited the original design of the building to architect William N. Bowman, he may have just presented a conceptual draft design as part of a fundraising effort, a common practice at the time.
Bowman designed such prominent Denver buildings as the Telephone Building in downtown Denver in 1929, the Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in 1910, and the Norman condo building near Washington Park on Downing Street in 1924.
While a Denver Post article in 1930 mentioned Bowman as architect of the Beth Eden Church,the building permit submitted to the city did not list him as the architect.
When Bowman died in 1944, his obituary in the Rocky Mountain News did not mention the Beth Eden Church as one of his creations. The Colorado Historical Society also does list the church as one of his works.
The building also is not in a “prominent location,” Connolly said, and it does not “promote understanding or appreciation of the urban environment due to any distinctive physical characteristics or rarity. Moreover, this structure does not make any type of special contribution to Denver’s distinctive character.”
To determine whether a building can be a designated landmark, the planning department looks at its history, architecture and location.
The planning department said while it does not meet any historic criteria, it checked off three reasons why it might qualify as a historically designated building.
- It embodies “distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style;
- Is a significant example of the work of a recognized architect or master builder.
- Has a prominent location.
The department admitted there is “no conclusive proof” it was designed by Bowman.
However, the “steeply pitched roof, prominent front facing gables, decorative half-timbering and multiple grouped windows are distinguishing characteristics of the Tudor Revival style.”
It also has a prominent location, just north of the Highland Square commercial district, the planning department said.
“This distinctive Tudor Revival church recognized by the many commuters along Lowell Boulevard as well as the visitors to “Highland Square” makes this church a familiar and established visual feature of West Highland giving the potential go meet criterion 3A Geography,” according to the planning department. The building has the potential for designation as it may meet criteria in Architecture and Geography.”
The planning department is “posting” the building for 21 days, which provides a historic designation to be brought forward. If a notice of intent to file a designation is submitted within 14 days of the posting then the posting period will be extended to 28 days, according to a letter from Savannah Jameson, a senior city planner.
“If the posting period elapses and an application for historic designation is not received by Landmark Preservation staff then the Certificate of Non-Historic Status will be issued,” she explained.
A Certificates of Non-Historic Status allow for demolition without further landmark preservation review for up to 5 years.
The 21 day posting period expires at 4 p.m. on Feb. 25. The 14 day period expires at 4 p.m. on Feb. 18.
Interested in buying a home in West Highland? Please visit COhomefinder.com.
Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.