Last year, the summer featured a hard-fought mayoral election and a spate of preservation issues that made the news. This year, the summer is featuring a pandemic, a series of heart-felt protests working to make change in equity, and a more quiet scene in terms of preservation issues (though not totally).
If you recall, last summer there was the stir over the potential of scraping the Googie-design Tom’s Diner, which is now going to be an indoor/outdoor venue. Then there was the Park Hill Farm House, which was not designated. (A few weeks ago, I drove by that address, and it is totally gone.) Finally, there was the Olinger Moore Howard – Berkeley Park Funeral Chapel, a 1960s building designed by the respected architect J. Roger Musick. (The image above is one of the beautiful windows in the chapel.)
In two of the cases, things have worked out better than expected because of changes in the city’s landmark preservation ordinance last year, which allows a longer time for the owner who wants to sell or scrape, and those who want to preserve the building. They go through mediation and discuss. It worked for Tom’s Diner, and it has worked for the mortuary. In both cases, new owners stepped up to protect these buildings.
There is still the issue of the Carmen Court’s future. But: The owners and developer that want to build a senior living center, and those who want to save it, apparently are still talking. Without that “pause,” everything was being rushed and causing arguments that did not have the time to work things out.
The real cause that was annoying many of us in Denver is the rush for redevelopment, replacing buildings that should have been saved. Whether it has been fine architecture, or important history, we have lost a lot in the past decade. With some of the new builds, it’s better to avert your eyes.
Back to the mortuary: After all the issues last summer, the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission voted yesterday a “yes” to move this landmark designation forward to the Denver City Council. What changed? So, aside from the “pause,” various people looked around to find a different owner and to find potential tenants that could move into the mortuary. The public hearing yesterday was so peaceful.
There is a new owner named Wamserville West, LLC, and new tenants – Redemption Church Denver and an incoming Montessori school. What also helped was work by District 1 City Council Representative Amanda Sandoval, who was active in terms of getting this worked out. The registered neighborhood organizations worked on this, and so did Historic Denver, as well as a well-prepared nomination by Laurie and Tom Simmons, who have a strong background in this work.
The topic of the former mortuary – or church, now — took less than an hour of discussion. Information was lined up, and then it moves on to city council. The designation, if approved, only pertains to the building and some green space; the parking lot probably will be developed, but the new owner declined to say what was going to happen on that part of the property. (Tom’s Diner also was only landmarked for the building.)
I watched this via the computer, “virtually” saw the presentation by the landmark staff, and listened to those who wanted to support the nomination.Last summer, tempers flared in terms of the fate of Tom’s Diner and the Berkeley mortuary. The pause has made a difference.
Below, are links that lead to the application for designation, the staff report, and a letter from Historic Denver in support of the designation. Then, there are a couple of links with updates to Tom’s Diner’s new world.