View FAQ about Historic Designations (Landmarks & Districts)
Are you interested in proposing a historic district for your neighborhood? Or do you want to individually designate your home? Local historic district or individual landmark designation is the most common form of historic designation in Denver, and the most useful in terms of offering protection from demolition and design review. National or State Register of Historic Places designation is an honorary designation and can have a financial benefit in the form of tax credits, but it does not protect against demolition.
Ultimately a formal application for a local historic district or individual landmark must be submitted to the Denver Landmark Commission and then approved by City Council, but there are many steps to take before initiating the formal process. Follow the steps below to get started!
Historic Denver can speak at community meetings, provide information about the district or individual designation process, and provide research advice so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel! If you are looking into a Historic District for your neighborhood you can also apply for direct support from Historic Denver through our Action Fund (although individual designations do not qualify for the Action Fund).
As a reminder, Historic Denver is a non-profit advocacy organization and does not grant historic designations; we provide support through the process. The process and ultimate decisions are conducted through the City & County of Denver, Community Planning & Development Department and the Denver Landmark Commission.
1) Review the Requirements
The City of Denver processes local landmark designations. You can find the required criteria, application, and sample applications on the Denver Landmark website. If you are interested in State Register or National Register visit our designation FAQs for more information.
2) Form an Exploratory Committee (for Historic Districts)
Identify neighbors who are interested in designation and organize a committee to lead the effort, conduct volunteer tasks, raise funds, and demonstrate grassroots support. This group must be committed to seeing the project through from beginning to end. Also, make contact with your Registered Neighborhood Organization (RNO) if one is active in your area.
3) Agree on Preliminary District Boundaries (for Historic Districts)
Using initial understanding about an area’s history and geography establish a preliminary boundary for the proposed district. The boundary may shift some as additional research is completed. Selecting a smaller, more cohesive area is generally more manageable than selecting a very large area, but historic districts range in size from one block to several hundred homes.
4) Check-in with the Denver Landmark Commission
Before you get too far it’s wise to check-in with the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission staff. You can review the requirements for historic districts or individual landmarks, discuss what makes for a strong application, and gain important feedback and guidance regarding whether the area is likely to meet the eligibility criteria. You can reach the staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5) Create A Map & Survey (for Historic Districts)
With the preliminary boundaries agreed upon, create a map of the proposed area. Conduct a “windshield” survey, photographing each property and researching its year of construction through the Denver Assessor’s office. This will help establish a period of significance for the district, which is essential in defining which properties are “contributing” and which are “non-contributing” (because they were built at a later time or lack integrity).
6) Conduct Research
Conduct research on the history, architecture, geography and culture of the proposed district, highlighting particularly important properties. Some neighborhoods elect to conduct this research on their own using dedicated volunteers who are willing to put in significant time to visit the library to research individual properties, larger historical trends affecting the area, and the common architectural styles. Other neighborhoods elect to hire consultants to do this work. For suggested consultants please contact Historic Denver. This same process pertains to researching your individual home for an individual landmark application.
7) Host an Informational Meeting (pertaining to Historic Districts)
It is important to host at least district-wide meeting early in the process. This provides property owners the opportunity to learn more about the process, express concerns and ask questions. Provide written information so owners have something to refer to during the meeting and once they go home. We suggest using Historic Denver’s FAQ on historic designation. This meeting can be held at the very beginning of the effort, or after initial research is complete, but should definitely take place before a designation application is submitted. Be sure to publicize the meeting widely. After an application is submitted the City of Denver will also host a required public meeting to gather input on the proposal.
8) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! (for Historic Districts)
Communication early and often is key to the success of any historic district proposal. Be sure to reach out to all property owners in the proposed district with basic information by delivering fliers door to door, sending registered letters, and hosting a number of community-wide meetings to discuss the district application, gain feedback from the community and provide updates on the process. Identifying a block captain for each block affected by the district may help, in the door to door communication. This outreach should be done at several stages of the process and in advance of any public hearings. Keep a list of each outreach effort to demonstrate that ample effort was put into informing all property owners about the project.
9) Prepare & Submit the Designation Application
Applications must be thorough and well-researched and demonstrate that the proposed district and individual landmark meets the criteria established in Denver’s Landmark Preservation Ordinance; these criteria include architecture, history, geography and culture. District applications must also identify which properties are “contributing” and which are “non-contributing.” Again, this can be done by volunteers or by a professional consultant. The application form, instructions, and samples can be found here. The application, along with the required fee, is submitted to the Landmark Preservation Commission.
10) Attend Public Hearings & Meetings
Once your application is submitted a formal process begins, and there will be several opportunities for property owners to provide their perspective. The Landmark Commission will hold a public hearing, and if they recommend the application, City Council will also host a public hearing. It is important to demonstrate great support at these hearings, so publicize them to all property owners and rally supporters to attend.
11) Celebrate Success!