Mayor and Council Candidates on Preservation, Growth
The 2023 municipal election is upon us, with ballots due by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4. Historic Denver does not endorse any candidate. However, we are keenly aware of the influence a mayor and city council members can have on policies related to our built environment and our historic and cultural treasures, and we are watching the election closely.
With this in mind, Historic Denver queried the candidates regarding the issues we know you care about, such as preservation, sustainability, and the intersection of historic buildings and affordable housing.
With support from the CU-Denver College of Architecture and Planning’s “Politics of Preservation” class, Historic Denver sent questions to those running for city council and mayor, using their publicly available email addresses. Recipients received the questionnaire, as well as two reminder emails, over a 10-day period. Of the 17 candidates for mayor and 40 candidates for the 13 council seats, 44% of those on the ballot responded to the questionnaire by our deadline, plus five write-in candidates.
Responses here to question #2 are lightly edited to condense them, and candidates are listed in alphabetical order by office. We encourage you to view the full list of questions and responses at the link below.
Question #2: Historic Denver believes preservation can go hand-in-hand with growth and development. What specific ideas do you have to balance our growing population with our historic built environment?
“I am committed to building more housing and increasing density in Denver but there is no reason that the pursuit of smart density must negatively impact our historic buildings. In fact, through adaptive reuse, I believe that historic buildings can be part of the solution.”
“We can look to cities like Minneapolis for solutions to these problems — they adopted truly form-based design and development standards that respect historic patterns of development so that new growth is durable and compatible, even if it is stylistically different.”
“It can and it will under our administration.”
Deborah “Debbie” Ortega:
“One approach that I plan to take, among others, is repurposing vacant units and commercial buildings to meet the needs of our surging population and limited supply of housing.”
“Historical Landmarks and institutions that give Denver its culture and heritage like the Mayan Theater, Su Teatro, the Fillmore, etc., will be protected and supported under my administration.”
“I would like the city to develop a partnership with Historic Denver and other organizations that serves as a clearing house for innovative real estate and financing transactions that align use and match owners who value historic designated properties and with sellers who do not.”
Ean Thomas Tafoya:
“Adaptive reuse of historic buildings is the best choice for climate action and sustainable development. We must incorporate historic preservation in Neighborhood Planning.”
CITY COUNCIL AT-LARGE
“We can also proactively identify main streets and neighborhood centers worthy of preservation, rather than reacting to demolition proposals, when a historic designation attempt may be too late.”
“Amending our zoning code that allows for more types of housing can be accomplished without having a negative impact on current landmarks and can be done in a way that maintains the specific requirements of historic districts.”
“Updating city code to facilitate easier updates and thoughtful reuse of old properties to reduce our carbon footprint and expedite neighborhood revitalization.”
“Developments in historic neighborhoods should undergo review early in the approval process by various stakeholders – architects, neighborhood organizations, and city planners.”
“Create impact plans for new developments. The plan will include relevant information for the preservation of historical sites in the development area.”
“By using a combination of adaptive reuse, incentives, protections, education, and collaboration, we can ensure that our historic built environment is preserved while also accommodating the needs of a growing population.”
“I think that the conversation can start with adaptive restoration and reuse of existing historic buildings can help to find a balance with our growing population while preserving our historic buildings.”
Diana Romero Campbell:
“The city’s building dept should make it easier for people to reuse old buildings without having to adhere to regulations that are cost prohibitive.”
“We have to channel growth away from historic districts (and resist the movement to rezone historic neighborhoods) and toward areas where development can be served with great transportation and where that new development does not come at the price of historic buildings.”
“From the cases I’ve seen in District 5, the costs to adaptively reuse structures has been extremely high, which is a huge disincentive for developers. The city needs to adopt adaptive reuse incentives to overcome this hurdle.”
“I would consider additional tax benefits for property owners whose property is land marked. Also reductions in permitting for renovating rather than scraping.”
“I believe that allowing adaptive re-use of structures and a land use code that allows flexibility are the best ways to preserve buildings…Under our current code it would often be easier to demolish a building and create a replica rather than re-use, that should be changed.”
“To balance growth while preserving historic buildings, we need to address each case as a community and determine if the building is a major part of the culture of the community.”
“Denver must embrace programs that let residents and businesses reinvest in historic properties to keep them viable. Liberalizing the use of ADUs throughout the city is one strategy. Another is more aggressively helping owners make their properties energy efficient through electrification of appliances and insulation improvement.”
“I will continue to advocate for houses/lots to be subdivided and find incentives for currently existing affordable houses to not be torn down.”
“We should have more incentives for structures to be repurposed as adaptive reuse of historic buildings minimizes the use of new construction materials and preserves our city’s history.”
“We can do both: commemorate where Denver came from using historic preservation while building in anticipation of Denver’s future…Two examples of doing both at the same time are in District 10: Uptown Tavern and Tom’s Starlight.”
Read all candidates’ responses to questions 1-6 at the link below.
Story updated March 13, 2023