Tools for Threatened Resources
Are you concerned about a particular building or place in your neighborhood? Are you worried that it might be demolished or that it is not being cared for? There are a variety of ways citizens can get involved in saving places that matter. Read through some of the steps and tools below to understand some of the options, and share your concerns with Historic Denver by phone or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1) Research the building or place that has you concerned.
What makes it special? Its history, architecture, geography or culture? Is it already a local landmark or listed on the State Register of Historic Places or National Register of Historic Places? Has the owner already applied for a demolition permit or a Certificate of Demolition Eligibility? If the answer is yes, and you have become concerned about the building because of a public posting read our Community Member’s Guide to Demolition Review, which includes steps specific to that process.
2) Consider the building’s significance.
Is it individually significant (i.e. is it likely to meet the criteria for designation as an individual local landmark) or is it significant because of its relationship with other structures (i.e. it would be a contributing structure to a potential historic district).
If you think the building, and its neighbors, could make a historic district read more about the historic district process. In this case you could also consider working with your neighbors to apply for financial and technical support from Historic Denver’s Action Fund.
If the threat is imminent, or a building or place stands alone is not likely to be a part of a potential historic district, continue reviewing tools and options.
3) Contact the building’s owner to share your concerns.
You can usually find the owner’s information through public records, through friends or neighbors, or simply by knocking on the door! If a demolition application or CNH application is pending you can ask the City of Denver for the owner’s contact information. Initiating a conversation with the property owner as early as possible is key to achieving a successful outcome.
4) Brainstorm potential outcomes.
Preservation is most successful when it’s collaborative. Once you understand the owner’s interests and needs, as well as the community’s hopes, try to identify “win-win” outcomes. Is there a solution that serves the owner and the neighborhood’s interests? For example, if the owner needs to sell can the neighborhood help the owner find a preservation-minded buyer? If the owner does not have the financial resources to care for the property, can you help them understand the preservation incentive programs that could help? If the owner hopes to develop the site, is it possible to save the structure and accommodate additions or new buildings on the site? Thinking through such options, and discussing them with the owner, can sometimes lead to a creative solution.
5) Talk to your friends and neighbors.
Determine whether others share your concerns and could help you achieve a preservation success. Is your Registered Neighborhood Organization interested? Has the group taken a position on the building or supported a neighborhood-wide preservation effort?
6) Contact your City Council Representative.
Ask whether they are aware of the building or any plans for its future. Inquire whether they would be willing to help you engage with the owner and the community in a conversation about the building or resource.
7) Determine your course of action.
Considering all you’ve learned think about what tools make the most sense. Will you pursue designation, a historic district, a creative compromise? Historic Denver can help you weigh your options, and provide feedback about what role the organization can play. Depending on Historic Denver’s assessment of the situation we may be able to offer technical assistance and resource information, broker meetings, brainstorm solutions or offer other support.
The City of Denver has a demolition review process that provides a window of opportunity for the community to consider the loss of a building that has potential for designation as a local landmark under the Denver Landmark Ordinance. Read more about Demolition Review, including the Certificate of Non-Historic Status process below.
In 2006 amendments to the Landmark Preservation Ordinance provided greater notice to the community when an un-designated, potential historic landmark faces demolition. These amendments were crafted by a group of stakeholders that included neighbors, preservationists, developers, realtors, planners and elected officials. The amendments were designed to put a stop to “surprise” demolitions that caught neighbors, city council members and preservationists without warning. The amendments create a demolition review period and provide a way for community members and property owners to discuss the long-term impact of demolition before a resource is lost forever. In 2019, Denver City Council adopted updates to this process that further encourage dialogue and collaboration as part of the process.
The demolition review ordinance also created the Certificate of Demolition Eligibility (formerly Non-Historic Status), which is a tool that can be used by a property owner to gain certainty about the status of their building. The process is essentially identical to the demolition review process, but rather than receiving a demolition permit at the end of the process, an owner can receive a certificate that provides them with five years in which they could seek a demolition permit without repeating the demolition review steps. It is best used as a due-diligence tool, and is not necessary if an owner of an un-designated structure merely wishes to renovate or remodel their building.
As a reminder, Historic Denver is a non-profit advocacy organization and does not implement demolition review nor grant historic designations. Those tasks are done by the City & County of Denver, Community Planning & Development Department and the Denver Landmark Commission.
Historic Denver believes in the principles underlying the demolition review ordinance, because such notification provides an opportunity for the community to discuss the merits of the property, the impact of demolition and possible alternatives. Most importantly, the demolition review provision ensures that a truly significant and valuable historic resource is not lost without reasonable consideration. The provision encourages owners of un-designated historic buildings to examine a wide range of reuse options before pursuing demolition.
How it Works:
1) A property owner elects to apply for a Demolition Permit or Certificate of Demolition Eligibility. A demolition permit provides authorization to demolish a building within 90 days. A Certificate of Demolition Eligibility (formerly known as a Certificate of Non-Historic Status) is a bit different. It provides certainty regarding a building’s potential for historic designation, and if granted, ensures that the owner can receive a demolition permit with no further historic review for a period of five years. A Demolition Permit is typically used when demolition is imminent, while a Certificate of Demolition Eligibility is typically used when an owner is considering what to do with a property. It can also be a due diligence tool for a prospective buyer if that buyer is interested in demolition in the future.
2) Once a demolition application or CDE is received by the City of Denver, city staff has ten days to determine whether the building potentially meets the criteria for designation as an individual landmark. To be potentially eligible the building has to meet at least three criteria related to history, architecture, geography or culture. The building must also retain its historic integrity.
3) If the building is determined not eligible, the demolition permit or CDE is issued. If the building is determined potentially eligible the City is required to “post” a notice on the building and notify City Council members and the closest Registered Neighborhood Association.
4) From the date of the posting a 21-day “clock” begins to tick. Within this 21 days the community has the opportunity to discuss the property, reach out to the property owner, and consider a course of action. Within this time frame community members can also elect to submit a “notice of intent” to file a designation. If notice to submit a designation is received within the 21-day time frame it is extended to the 60th day (from the date of the application) and the city provides a mediator to ensure that the community members and property owner discuss the property and the circumstances before a designation process begins. During the mediation the parties may agree to an alternative approach to either demolition or designation, and there are a number of win-win outcomes that can serve as examples. If this is not the case, then the community can submit a designation application on the specified timeline. To submit a designation there must be three applicants who are residents in the City of Denver. The applicants must also pay an $875 fee.
5) If no designation (or intent to file) is submitted, the demolition permit or CDE is issued automatically at the expiration of the 21-day period. If a designation is submitted after the posting and mediation period the formal designation process begins, including review by the Landmark Preservation Commission, a public hearing at the Commission, and consideration by City Council, with a public hearing. This entire process must be completed within 90 days from the date of the designation application. If it is not completed the demolition permit or CDE is issued.
While designation action is an option, the true value of the demolition review process is the window of time it provides for conversation. Historic Denver has created a protocol community members can follow when a building in their neighborhood is posted. We believe following this protocol can lead to collaborative and positive preservation outcomes.