Skip navigation

Photo of landmark duplex property

About Landmark Preservation

Landmark Preservation is a vital and integrated component of Community Planning and Development. Denver’s landmarks and historic districts enhance the city’s unique identity, quality of life, and economic vitality. Denver’s City Council first enacted the Denver Landmark ordinance in 1967 to help preserve, enhance and encourage the use of structures and areas of the city with historical, architectural and/or geographical significance.

Assisting Property Owners

  • Design Review: Staff, in coordination with the Landmark Preservation Commission, perform design review for all projects that require building permits for properties locally designated as historic landmarks or inside locally designated historic districts. Design review ensures that these projects preserve the properties’ key historic character-defining features and qualities.
  • State Income Tax Credits: Staff process applications for state historic preservation income tax credits, which Colorado offers to property owners for qualifying preservation and rehabilitation work on designated historic properties. Residential and commercial property owners can recoup 20 percent of qualifying rehabilitation costs up to $50,000.
  • Expertise and Resources: Staff provide technical advice and resources regarding the importance and appropriate preservation of historic properties.

Aiding in the Preservation of Denver’s History and Architecture 

  • Demolition Review: Staff review all permit applications for total demolition, including those for structures not currently designated as historic landmarks and for structures outside of historic districts, so as to help preserve Denver’s cultural and architectural history by giving the community an opportunity to protect structures of historic and architectural significance.
  • Historic Designation: Staff assist owner-initiated and community-initiated efforts to designate historic properties as local landmarks and/or areas around the city as historic districts. Staff also review nominations for listing Denver properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

Raising awareness about historic preservation

  • Discover Denver: The city, in partnership with Historic Denver Inc., is conducting a building and neighborhood survey meant to identify historic and architecturally significant structures citywide. The mission is to identify the places that matter to Denver’s history, to share the value of these historic resources to promote public pride and awareness and to encourage a culture of reinvestment.

Photo of front porch of landmark home

Landmark Preservation Commission and Lower Downtown Design Review Board

The Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) is responsible for reviewing applications for historic districts and individual structures, and forwarding recommendations on designations to the Denver City Council for final approval. Both the LPC and the Lower Downtown Design Review Board (LDDRB) perform design and demolition review for proposed exterior projects involving locally designated historic properties. The LDDRB reviews projects located within the Lower Downtown Historic District, while the LPC reviews projects located within all other designated historic districts and on the sites of individually designated landmarks.

Other Organizations

Landmark Preservation coordinates with these and other community, neighborhood and historic preservation organizations on a regular basis.  

Frequently Asked Questions - Historic Designation

  • Historic properties provide a link to our past, and enrich our community by conveying a sense of continuity, identity and place.
  • Vintage buildings benefit the economy by attracting visitors and providing distinctive spaces for local businesses.
  • Historic districts support neighborhood stability, uniqueness and variety--all attributes that contribute to the long-term desirability and vitality of Denver’s neighborhoods. 
  • Historic preservation is a sustainable environmental practice, preserving and re-using existing buildings, and contributing fewer building materials to local landfills.
  • Historic districts stimulate Denver’s economy.  According to building permit records from 2010 to 2012, construction investment is 3 to 10 times greater in historic districts than in other areas of Denver.  This is good news since, according to a 2011 study by Clarion Associates, every $1 million spent on historic preservation generates approximately 32 Colorado jobs.
  • Historic designation results in higher property values on average as compared to undesignated neighborhoods, benefitting both individual property owners and the community’s tax base.

Public Recognition

  • Historic designation acknowledges a property's importance and sense of status within the community.  Bronze plaques are affixed to properties with individual Denver landmark designation, while street signs identify historic districts.

Financial Benefits

  • In some cases, owners may be eligible for federal tax credits or state tax credits, incentives that encourage rehabilitation and reinvestment in historic buildings.
  • Grant funds may also be available to assist with building condition assessments and brick-and-mortar rehabilitation projects.

Read more about the broader benefits of historic preservation at the History Colorado website.

Exterior changes to and proposed demolitions of individual landmarks and historic district properties are subject to local design review and demolition review, respectively, which in some cases involves review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board.

The purpose of design review is to ensure changes and new construction are compatible with the site's historic architecture, and to help property owners retain the most significant, or “character-defining” elements of a property. Design and demolition reviews also promote neighborhood stability in historic districts, since current and prospective property owners know that the distinctive architectural features of a particular neighborhood are protected over time.  

How does local historic designation protect historic properties?

Proposed demolitions and exterior changes to individual landmarks and historic district properties are subject to local design review and demolition review and some projects also require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board.

 

The purpose of design review is to ensure changes and new construction are compatible with the site's historic architecture, and to help property owners retain the most significant, or “character-defining” elements of a property.   Design and demolition reviews also promote neighborhood stability in historic districts, since current and prospective property owners know that the distinctive architectural features of a particular neighborhood are protected over time. 

 

How does local historic designation protect historic properties?

Proposed demolitions and exterior changes to individual landmarks and historic district properties are subject to local design review and demolition review and some projects also require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board.

 

The purpose of design review is to ensure changes and new construction are compatible with the site's historic architecture, and to help property owners retain the most significant, or “character-defining” elements of a property.   Design and demolition reviews also promote neighborhood stability in historic districts, since current and prospective property owners know that the distinctive architectural features of a particular neighborhood are protected over time. 

 

How does local historic designation protect historic properties?

Proposed demolitions and exterior changes to individual landmarks and historic district properties are subject to local design review and demolition review and some projects also require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board.

 

The purpose of design review is to ensure changes and new construction are compatible with the site's historic architecture, and to help property owners retain the most significant, or “character-defining” elements of a property.   Design and demolition reviews also promote neighborhood stability in historic districts, since current and prospective property owners know that the distinctive architectural features of a particular neighborhood are protected over time. 

 

No, historic designation does not prohibit alterations or updates. 

Owners of individual landmarks and properties within historic districts can make changes and upgrades. Designation just means that certain types of changes to the exterior of the property may be subject to design review by landmark staff and/or the Landmark Preservation Commission. 

Specifically, design review applies to work on property exteriors triggered by building/demolition permits.  Landmark Preservation does not review interior work. For more information on what is reviewed, please contact Landmark Preservation or visit the design review page.

Studies across the United States have concluded that historic designation and the creation of historic districts increase - or at least stabilize - property values. 

A historic district designation won’t guarantee a rise in home values, but studies show it’s likely. In times of recession, home values in historic districts are less likely to fall or typically will fall less than values elsewhere in a community. The reason for this, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is that historic district designations help protect the most attractive aspects of a neighborhood by limiting demolitions and out-of-character remodeling. Denver's 2012 assessment data points to property values 12% higher on average in locally-designated historic districts compared with adjacent neighborhoods without historic designation.

Local

Local historic designation, either as an individual Denver landmark or as part of a local historic district, recognizes properties with historical, architectural and/or geographical importance to Denver. This designation offers the strongest protection for historic properties since Landmark Preservation review and approval is triggered by exterior and demolition work requiring building, demolition or zoning permits. Work on locally designated properties can also qualify for state tax credits.

State

The Colorado State Register recognizes properties with local, state or national significance. Properties on the Colorado State Register can compete for grants from Colorado’s State Historical Fund. Owners can also apply for state tax credits for rehabilitation projects. History Colorado, which administers this register, does not restrict what private property owners may or may not do with their property. 

National

Listing on the National Register of Historic Places or as a national historic landmark is an honorary status afforded by the National Park Service.  Properties listed on the National Register can have local, state or national historical significance, but properties deemed as National Historic Landmarks must be significant to the nation. Listing at the national level does not restrict what a property owner may do with a property unless the owner is using federal financial assistance. 

Landmark designation ensures a more thorough review of demolition proposals for designated landmarks and historic properties in historic districts, but does not outright prohibit demolition.  

Demolition of historic properties can be approved in cases of demonstrated economic hardship or when a property is deemed an imminent danger to life, health or property by city building inspectors.  The Landmark Preservation Commission often approves demolitions of small accessory structures, such as one-story garages which lack distinguishable features, and non-contributing (i.e. non-historic) structures in historic districts. 

For a structure or district to qualify for historic designation, the property or properties must maintain their historic or physical integrity, and meet at least one criterion in two of the three following categories:

  • history
  • architecture
  • geography

When the Landmark Preservation Commission reviews designation applications, it will also consider how a structure or district relates to a historic context or theme important to Denver history. Consult with Landmark Preservation Staff to obtain more information.

You will need to conduct historic research to determine if the property or properties in question meet the criteria for historic designation.

The landmark designation criteria and process is delineated in Chapter 30 of the Denver Municipal Code.

Designating an individual property or structure

Although the majority of landmark designation applications are submitted by the owners of the subject properties, Denver's landmark ordinance also allows community members to submit applications for properties they do not own. 

If you are interested in the designation of a property you do not own, we recommend contacting the property owner directly to inquire about interest in designation. 

Otherwise, without the owner's consent, a minimum of three applicants is required to initiate landmark designation. The three applicants must be some combination of Denver residents, Denver property owners, or Denver based organizations or businesses.

The landmark ordinance also requires staff to notify the public about demolition and certificate of non-historic status applications for potentially historic properties. In rare circumstances, landmark designation applications are received as the result of these postings.

Designating a historic district

Historic district designations are typically initiated by neighborhood groups representing multiple owners. A minimum of three applicants is required to initiate the designation process for historic districts. 

No.  Once the city receives a designation application for a structure or historic district, a demolition hold goes into effect for 120 days. No demolition permit is issued for an affected structure or district within this time period unless the Landmark Preservation Commission denies the application for designation or City Council votes to deny historic designation first.

City Council must file a bill to designate a structure or district within 90 days after the Landmark Preservation Commission first transmits its recommendation to City Council, or the designation process will be terminated.  In cases where an application for either demolition or a Certificate of Non-Historic Status prompts the landmark designation application, the structure must be designated within 120 days or the process is terminated.

A typical designation of a landmark structure is processed within 90 to 120 days from time of application, although the process and time frame can vary.  

No. Local landmark or historic district designation does not trigger any requirement that you make your property accessible to the public. A non-profit organization (such as a neighborhood association) may contact you regarding your willingness to participate in a historic home tour, but it is up to your discretion as to whether to participate or not. The City and County of Denver will not be involved in such a request.

Frequently Asked Questions - Design Review

Changes that require Landmark design approval:

If changes to the exterior of your property require a building or zoning permit, you will need to undergo design review prior to obtaining a building or zoning permit. Some examples of work requiring Landmark design review include: 

  1. Window replacements -- A building permit is required for any window replacement on buildings in locally designate+d historic districts or on Denver landmarks regardless of whether or not the overall size of the window opening is changing
  2. Additions to existing buildings, including patios, attic conversions, second story and dormer additions
  3. Construction or alteration of garages and carports, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and carriage houses
  4. Installation of mechanical equipment including HVAC, solar, venting, swamp coolers, etc.
  5. Construction of detached structures such as gazebos, pergolas, stand alone decks or pool houses, and above- or in-ground swimming pools
  6. Exterior alterations including new exterior doors, egress windows, roof or siding replacement, stucco, skylights, patio or deck covers, and window awnings. 
  7. New building construction inside historic districts
  8. Construction of fences and retaining walls – A building permit is required for all fences and retaining walls for properties in locally designated historic districts and for Denver landmarks. 
  9. Signage installation
  10. Demolitions 

Changes that do not require Landmark design approval:

  1. Interior work that does not affect building exteriors (including interior demolition work)
  2. Minor repairs that do not require a building or zoning permit
  3. Painting a house a different color
  4. Repointing masonry
  5. Repairing an existing window (e.g., replacing a broken pane of glass, stripping paint, wood fills, etc.)
  6. Installation or removal of plant material

Projects meeting any of the following conditions (as determined by Landmark Preservation staff) must be reviewed by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board: 

  1. All additions that add more than 900 square feet or add more than 40% square footage to existing above grade square footage, whichever is less
  2. Projects visible from the right of way
  3. All roof-top additions with visibility from public vantage points, including enclosed and open space
  4. All new construction except for one-story garages that clearly meet design guidelines and are not visible from public vantage points
  5. Changes to visible doors, windows, porches and other historic features
  6. Changes to historic materials
  7. Comprehensive sign plans, projecting shaped signs and other signs that are not subject to administrative review
  8. Demolition of all primary structures, portions of a contributing structure or contributing outbuildings
  9. Projects determined by Landmark Preservation staff to not meet the design guidelines

Yes. Landmark Preservation reviews design changes to all buildings in historic districts, even when they are newer (including “non-contributing,” “non-historic,” or buildings constructed outside the period of significance). The purpose of this review is to ensure that any proposed changes are compatible with the character of other historic buildings and the historic district.

Yes. Landmark Preservation reviews plans for all buildings in a locally designated historic district and on landmark designated properties. The purpose of this review is to ensure that new construction is compatible with adjacent historic buildings and the overall character of the historic district.

When the proposed building is located on a vacant lot or on a developed lot but does not involve demolition of existing buildings: 

Please contact Landmark Preservation staff for more information about design review of new infill construction. You will need to complete a pre-application form and submit all materials on the Design Review Infill Guide. Most new construction projects require a two-step review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board:

  1. Massing, Form and Context Review
  2. Design Detail Review (including all architectural details) 

Small accessory buildings such as Accessory Dwelling Units or garages may entail a combined Massing, Form, Context and Design Detail review. 

When the proposed building requires the demolition of existing buildings:  

Landmark Preservation approval of the demolition work will be required before you can submit plans for a new replacement structure on the same site. For more information on this process, go to demolition and certificate of non-historic status review.  

Yes. Design guidelines have been approved by the Landmark Preservation Commission and the Lower Downtown Design Review Board to guide design review and provide applicants reasonable expectations of what is expected. For additional information, go to design guidelines.

The time frame for design review depends on the completeness of the application, the complexity of the project and the extent to which the project meets the design guidelines. Please contact Landmark Preservation staff to obtain a time estimate for the design review of your project and submit all materials required with your application. Incomplete applications delay the design review process. 

Landmark Preservation staff will review your project within 5 business days of submission for completeness and to determine whether it will require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or the Lower Downtown Design Review Board. Administrative approval by Landmark staff typically takes between 5 and 10 business days upon receipt of a complete application for work that clearly meets the design guidelines. 

For projects requiring Landmark Preservation Commission review, complete applications, including all required submittal materials must be submitted to Landmark Preservation staff at least four (4) weeks prior to the next available meeting. The commission meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month. 

For projects in the Lower Downtown Historic District requiring Lower Downtown Design Review Board review, complete applications, including all required submittal materials, must be submitted to Landmark Preservation staff at least three (3) weeks prior to the next available meeting. The board meets the 1st Thursday of each month. 

Please be aware that some projects may require multiple reviews by the commission or board. For example, an infill project requires a two-step review. 

There is no fee for design review.

 

News & Updates

> Updates to Design Guidelines

The LPC has adopted revisions to the Design Guidelines for Denver Landmark Structures and Districts. The guidelines help ensure that proposed projects on landmark structures and structures in historic districts preserve key historic features and are compatible with the character of designated historic buildings, sites and districts. The revisions clarify and update processes to ensure the guidelines adhere to current practice. 

In addition, new character-defining features have been added for the Alamo Placita, Morgan's Subdivision, Witter-Cofield and Wyman Historic Districts, and existing character-defining features have been updated for the Baker, Ghost and Wolff historic districts. For the complete PDF of the Design Guidelines, or a chapter-by-chapter listing, as well as the character-defining features, visit the Design Guidelines page.  

Character defining features for the following districts are slated for completion in 2016 and 2017:

  • East 7th Ave.
  • Montclair
  • Larimer Square
  • Ballpark
  • Driving Park
  • Lafayette Street
  • Old Highland Business District
  • Swallow Hill
  • Humboldt Street-Park Ave.
  • Quality Hill
  • Pennsylvania Street
  • Sherman-Grant
  • Humboldt Street
  • Snell Subdivision
  • Grant Street
  • Clayton College
Contact Us

Landmark Preservation Office:
720-865-2709
landmark@denvergov.org