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Historic Denver outlines reason to save church



  • Historic Denver submits application to save Beth Eden Church.
  • The church was ground zero of a zoning suit.
  • Historic Denver has reached out to Tom Wootten, the owner.
A look at the Beth Eden Church building on Lowell Boulevard.

A look at the Beth Eden Church building on Lowell Boulevard.

Historic Denver has submitted an exhaustive, 42-page application for Landmark designation for the former Beth Eden Church in West Highland.

The church building at 3241 Boulevard, has been at ground zero of a zoning battle that was recently settled.

Part of the agreement between the 10 neighbors that sued the landowner, a group headed by Tom Wootten, included a provision that if the church is granted non-historic status, covenants would be put in place that would set the maximum height of future buildings on two nearby sites on Meade Street and West Moncrieff Place to four stories. Non-historic status would allow the building to be razed within the next five years with no further review.

If Landmark status is granted, which would prevent the demolition of the building, zoning would allow five-story buildings on Meade and Moncrieff.

The building currently has neither a historic nor a non-historic designation.

Historic Denver had announced earlier it had planned to join a different neighborhood group in its efforts to save the church building, so it was not a surprise when it filed its application on Tuesday’s deadline.

History, architecture, geography

Historic Denver based its case for historic designation on its history, architecture and geography.

It noted that a church has been on that site since 1892, although the current Tudor Revival-style church was built in 1931.

“The church represents the design quality achieved by one of Denver’s most respected architects, William N. Bowman,” the application says.

Earlier, however, an attorney for Wootten said it questionable whether Bowman actually designed it and his name may have been attached to the church building simply as a fund-raising tactic.

“Beth Eden is the only documented church in the Tudor Revival style in Denver,” Historic Denver said in its filing.

As far as geography, the non-profit organization noted it has a “prominent location and is an established, familiar, and orienting visual feature of the contemporary city.”

It went on to say it has a “commanding” presence and is one of the “most recognizable and notable landmarks in northwest Denver.”

It also is one block north of two designated Denver Landmark Historic district, Wolff Place and Allen M. Ghost.

“The church structure itself serves as a visual, transitional element from the commercial node and the historic residences to the north,” according to the application.

Annie Levinsky, the executive director of Historic Denver, has discussed saving the church with Wootten and his attorneys.

Denver-based RedPeak Properties had the land under contract, but recently announced it was no longer pursuing it for business reasons.

Because RedPeak was going to incorporate the building into its apartment community development, Historic Denver did not “oppose the project or enter into designation proceedings at an earlier time.”

No stranger to controversy

Historic Denver is aware of the zoning battle that was launched almost three years ago when neighbors learned and feared three, five-story buildings in the heart of the trendy Highland Square area north of the West 32nd Avenue restaurant and retail corridor.

Beth Eden Church Building.

Beth Eden Church Building.

“While there has been great controversy regarding this particular development, the inclusion of the church was a significant bright spot for many in the community,” according to the application.

The application said that the landowner, which is the group headed by Wootten, “outside the confines of the settlement agreement…would be open to such conversations as significant development can occur on the site either way, it has proven difficult to find a middle ground that does not negate the obligations of the owners or other parties involved in the settlement.”

Historic Denver isn’t giving up and will continue to “pursue conversations with the owner and the neighbors involved in the settlement,” but said because of time constraints proceeding with the designation process “may prove the only means of saving the church from demolition.”

A public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on April 1 before the Landmark Preservation Commission in conference room 4F6-4G2 in the Wellington Webb Office Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave.

Ultimately, City Council would need to approve the Landmark designation. Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, whose District One includes the church building, said she would want to review all of the evidence before she made a decision whether to support Landmark designation.

For those who support the Landmark designation, please go to this Historic Denver link.

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