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Landmark preservation in Denver to become more inclusive, collaborative

City Council approved proposed changes at public hearing Sept. 30

DENVER — What’s a Denver landmark to you? Recognizing that this question can have many answers, city planners from Denver Community Planning and Development convened a task force in 2018 to propose updates to the city’s “landmark preservation ordinance,” or Chapter 30 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code. At its meeting Monday, September 30, City Council approved the package of recommended amendments at a final public hearing.

Over the course of a year, the task force considered the many benefits and challenges of preservation in Denver. Two of the most important changes coming out of this work are as follows:

  • A greater representation of Denver’s diverse cultures among city landmarks, and
  • A process that promotes compromise and collaboration between property owners and community members.

“We are expanding the criteria for historic designation to include culture, as a way to ensure we retain opportunities to designate the places that reflect Denver’s diversity and rich cultural history going forward. Places like the Five Points Historic Cultural District, which reflects the history of the African-American community and culture in Denver, and the First Unitarian Society of Denver Church, which reflects the history of LGBTQ culture in Denver, both of which are already Denver landmarks,” said Evelyn Baker, interim Executive Director of Community Planning and Development.

Additionally, when demolition or redevelopment of a beloved location is proposed, the changes to the landmark preservation ordinance will allow more time for community members and property owners to work together toward solutions beyond simply demolition or designation, and will require property owners and community members to meet before advancing an owner-opposed landmark designation application to the Landmark Preservation Commission.

“These changes start to move us away from confrontation and toward collaboration. There’s a push-and-pull dynamic as we try to find the balance between a growing and changing city and the need to preserve and respect our historical fabric,” said District 2 councilmember and task force member Kevin Flynn.

Annie Levinsky, executive director of Historic Denver, said “For more than 50 years, Denver’s landmark ordinance has provided the tools and processes to protect places that matter to our community, from the Mayan Theater to Lower Downtown, and these updates ensure this work can continue with an even greater emphasis on creative problem-solving, so our historic places can support the needs of our city and our community.” 

About the task force
Tonight’s vote at City Council is the culmination of a process that began in 2018 with the appointment of a task force to review and recommend potential changes to the landmark preservation ordinance (Chapter 30 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code). The ordinance has been updated multiple times since its original adoption in 1967 to reflect changing practices in preservation and building construction. The task force balanced a wide range of perspectives on all sides of the preservation debate and met monthly from March 2018 to March 2019.

The package of updates recommended by the task force were presented to members of the public in a series of meetings and office hours throughout the city this summer, and have been reviewed by the Landmark Preservation Commission.

View all changes to the ordinance and see who was on the task force >>

Attached: One-pagers detailing the cultural significance criteria and the changes to the demolition review process when there is community interest in preserving a structure

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BUILDING COMMUNITY: Denver Community Planning and Development (CPD) is responsible for visionary city planning and ensuring safe, responsible, sustainable building. CPD regulates planning, zoning, development and maintenance of private property in Denver. We're working hard to make Denver a great place to live, work and play! Visit DenverGov.org/CPD, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @DenverCPD.