Historic Denver outlines reasons to save church

Highlights:

  • Historic Denver submits application to save Beth Eden Church.
  • The church was ground zero of a zoning suit.
  • Historic Denver has reached out to Tom Wootten, the owner.
A look at the Beth Eden Church building on Lowell Boulevard.

A look at the Beth Eden Church building on Lowell Boulevard.

Historic Denver has submitted an exhaustive, 42-page application for Landmark designation for the former Beth Eden Church in West Highland.

The church building at 3241 Boulevard, has been at ground zero of a zoning battle that was recently settled.

Part of the agreement between the 10 neighbors that sued the landowner, a group headed by Tom Wootten, included a provision that if the church is granted non-historic status, covenants would be put in place that would set the maximum height of future buildings on two nearby sites on Meade Street and West Moncrieff Place to four stories. Non-historic status would allow the building to be razed within the next five years with no further review.

If Landmark status is granted, which would prevent the demolition of the building, zoning would allow five-story buildings on Meade and Moncrieff.

The building currently has neither a historic nor a non-historic designation.

Historic Denver had announced earlier it had planned to join a different neighborhood group in its efforts to save the church building, so it was not a surprise when it filed its application on Tuesday’s deadline.

History, architecture, geography

Historic Denver based its case for historic designation on its history, architecture and geography.

It noted that a church has been on that site since 1892, although the current Tudor Revival-style church was built in 1931.

“The church represents the design quality achieved by one of Denver’s most respected architects, William N. Bowman,” the application says.

Earlier, however, an attorney for Wootten said it questionable whether Bowman actually designed it and his name may have been attached to the church building simply as a fund-raising tactic.

“Beth Eden is the only documented church in the Tudor Revival style in Denver,” Historic Denver said in its filing.

As far as geography, the non-profit organization noted it has a “prominent location and is an established, familiar, and orienting visual feature of the contemporary city.”

It went on to say it has a “commanding” presence and is one of the “most recognizable and notable landmarks in northwest Denver.”

It also is one block north of two designated Denver Landmark Historic district, Wolff Place and Allen M. Ghost.

“The church structure itself serves as a visual, transitional element from the commercial node and the historic residences to the north,” according to the application.

Annie Levinsky, the executive director of Historic Denver, has discussed saving the church with Wootten and his attorneys.

Denver-based RedPeak Properties had the land under contract, but recently announced it was no longer pursuing it for business reasons.

Because RedPeak was going to incorporate the building into its apartment community development, Historic Denver did not “oppose the project or enter into designation proceedings at an earlier time.”

No stranger to controversy

Historic Denver is aware of the zoning battle that was launched almost three years ago when neighbors learned and feared three, five-story buildings in the heart of the trendy Highland Square area north of the West 32nd Avenue restaurant and retail corridor.

Beth Eden Church Building.

Beth Eden Church Building.

“While there has been great controversy regarding this particular development, the inclusion of the church was a significant bright spot for many in the community,” according to the application.

The application said that the landowner, which is the group headed by Wootten, “outside the confines of the settlement agreement…would be open to such conversations as significant development can occur on the site either way, it has proven difficult to find a middle ground that does not negate the obligations of the owners or other parties involved in the settlement.”

Historic Denver isn’t giving up and will continue to “pursue conversations with the owner and the neighbors involved in the settlement,” but said because of time constraints proceeding with the designation process “may prove the only means of saving the church from demolition.”

A public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on April 1 before the Landmark Preservation Commission in conference room 4F6-4G2 in the Wellington Webb Office Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave.

Ultimately, City Council would need to approve the Landmark designation. Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, whose District One includes the church building, said she would want to review all of the evidence before she made a decision whether to support Landmark designation.

For those who support the Landmark designation, please go to this Historic Denver link.

 Interested in buying a home in West Highland? Please visits COhomefinder.com.

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at  JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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Comments

  1. Every time I see one of these “historic” arguments, among others, I cringe. Nobody ever wants to talk about private property rights, modern life has put major constraints on our individual rights in favor of the communal interest. So how far will this go is what I think about.

    Whether Beth Eden Church survives, I could care less frankly. But what a small influential group wants to do with someone else’s property should be of big concern to us all. Who will they turn on next?

    • It’s not like Wooten didn’t know what he was potentially getting into when he bought a 100 year old church on a single family residential street. It’s more complicated than using platitudes like “individual property rights”. It’s was a gamble on his part from the beginning and so far it’s not paying off.

      • Jason I agree this individual project was a gamble. My comment, to clarify, was in regards, in general, to a lack of concern for private property rights and how we’ve arrived to a time in this country where private property isn’t so private. It’s a whole other topic really but not a small one, and manifesting itself in zoning planning and landmark preservation on the local level.

  2. The church should be preserved for all the reasons mentioned in the article. And the previously presented designs proved that it CAN be preserved and incorporated into the new development.

  3. 1) No one will touch this property if they have to incorporate a church into the design

    2) No one will touch this property because they don’t want to spend years in litigation before they can build anything.

  4. The private property argument is classic libertarianism, which is all right for some, but there’s a hole in that argument. The benefit that all of the surrounding property owners (not just those immediately adjacent, but everyone within a half-mile or mile radius) derive from preserving a structure that contributes to the historic character of a popular retail and dining district is greater than any “rights” that are “lost” by myopic landowners with no vision or sense of history. Add to that the benefit that the retailers and restaurant operators, as well as Denver at large, receives from the historic nature of the area, and you have something that maybe can’t be quantified, but is no less real than the rights of the owner of the property on which the church sits. As a neighbor within a few blocks, my property values will be negatively impacted if the 32nd & Lowell area loses its cachet–and tearing down contributing historic structures is the surest path to mediocrity. A more imaginative landowner would realize that his land is more valuable with a historic structure on it than it would be if it were completely vacant.

    The idea that no one would touch this property because there’s a church on it is negated by the several examples of churches that have been turned into condominiums right here in Denver, and you can bet those who own those condos love the unique spaces they inhabit. I realize that recent liability laws are putting a crimp on developers who want to build for-sale properties, but there’s no law that forbids them from trying. The right developer, the one that has more imagination than those who favor the blank slate, is out there somewhere.

    • Mark B, you seem to have missed something in coming up with this statement :” A more imaginative landowner would realize that his land is more valuable with a historic structure on it than it would be if it were completely vacant.”

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