Neighbors want historic designation for NW Denver home



  • Another “hostile” historic designation is in the works.
  • Landmark Preservation Commission will consider the historic designation on Tuesday.
  • The home in West Highland is “historic in every sense of the word,” neighbor says.
West Highland neighbors want this home at 5115 W. 29th Ave. to be designated as historic.

West Highland neighbors want this home at 5115 W. 29th Ave. to be designated as historic.

West Highland neighbors are rallying to save a home on top of a hill in northwest Denver, where a developer plans 38 apartment units.

Neighbors are seeking a historic designation for the home at 5115 W. 29th Ave., without the consent of the owner.

On Tuesday, the Landmark Preservation Commission will consider the historic designation request for a home at a hearing that begins at 1 p.m. in room #4.f.6 in the Wellington E. Webb Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave.

The Denver Square-style home not only received the required three signatures for the historic designation application, but another three dozen people signed in support of the application.

“The home is historic in every sense of the word,” said nearby resident Daniel Findlay, one of the neighbors who signed the historic application.

Opponents of historic designation against the wishes of the homeowner have labeled these as “hostile” historic designations. Some developers believe so-called “hostile” historic designations will become a frequently used tool to stop, slow or scale back development that otherwise would be permitted under the zoning code.

The most high-profile “hostile” designation is the controversial proposed historic designation for the home owned by Jim Sonnleitner at 2329 Eliot St. in Jefferson Park, about two miles southeast of the West Highland home. Sonnleitner’s home,  has been ground zero in a battle between historic preservationists and property right supporters.

The council will consider the historic designation of Sonnleitner ‘s home on Nov. 16.

Neighbors, however, under city rules, are allowed to apply for a historic designation against the wishes of an owner.

Both homes are in District 1.

The Sonnleitner home has been in the spotlight in part because Rafael Espinoza, when he was councilman-elect for District 1, was one of the applicants for the historic designation request. Adams Development, based in Jefferson Park, is under contract to buy Sonnleitner’s home and property. Adams would raze the home and replace the site with 18, energy-efficient, 3-story townhouse priced in the high $400,000s. However, Nathan Adams, head of his namesake company, said he will not buy the property if the council decides it is historic.

Another view of the home in West Highland that neighbors want to be declared as historic.

Another view of the home in West Highland that neighbors want to be declared as historic.


Meanwhile, the West Highland home was purchased last year by a limited liability company created by Carter Design Builders, which is based in the Denver Tech Center, according to public records. Records indicate it sold in May 2014 for $850,000.

Carter Design Builders wants to build 38 apartment units on the property in a three-story building, according to preliminary plans it submitted to the city.

Attempts by Denver Real Estate Watch to reach Brad Teets, a principal at Carter Design Builders, on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, were unsuccessful.

The staff for Landmark Preservation recommended that the home in West Highland be granted historic designation.

The staff report by planner Kara Hahn rejected the “Historical Significance” of the home built in circa 1918 for Charles Lambourn, a noted floriculture associated with the “Carnation Gold Rush” of the area at the time.

However, the home qualified for historic designation based on its Geographic and Architectural significance,, according Hahn.

“The building is a substantial, high-style residence placed on an imposing hill top site at the intersection of 29th Avenue and Zenobia Street,” Hahn wrote in her report.

“The steep diagonal concrete stairway rising to the prominent house is a striking and iconic feature of the neighborhood. Deliberately situated for a commanding view of the mountains and the City of Denver, the property is a strong orienting visual feature, at a busy intersection.Additionally, the location along the trolley line would have historically made the house a familiar landmark to those traveling along the line,” she continued.

The home was designed by “prolific” architect Richard Philips, who known for having designed 54 homes in one year.

A map shows where the West Highland home is that neighbors want to save. The developer/owner has filed a preliminary plan for 38 apartment units on the site.

A map shows where the West Highland home is that neighbors want to save. The developer/owner has filed a preliminary plan for 38 apartment units on the site.

“The house is an intact and good example of a Denver Square residence with Classical elements. The substantial two-story Denver Square House with its prominent hilltop location, is an excellent example of the style as evidenced by its hipped roof, broad overhanging eves, large rectangular double hung windows, and Doric columns,” according to Hahn’s report.

Neighbor Findlay says the house is without a doubt worth saving.

And for many reasons.

“At the most basic level, it is nearly 100 years old, having stood proud witness to the course of the Lambourn family, the booming flower business in early 20th Century Denver, and Northwest Denver’s path through time,” Findlay said.

“Its architect, Richard Phillips, left his rapidly disappearing but forceful imprint on Denver with his characteristic style the ¾ Denver Square ¾ which he captured beautifully in this majestic house providing unmatched views overlooking Sloan’s Lake, downtown Denver and the Rockies, including a perfect sight line of Pikes Peak,” according to Findlay.

However, he said in his opinions, what is most notable “is the startling uniqueness of the house —high on a hill, on a giant lot on a busy street, classic architecture and funky corner entrance with a winding staircase — it truly anchors the neighborhood in a way nothing else ever could.

Findlay said even people who do not live near the home notice and appreciate it.

“Everybody knows it; everybody is welcomed by it as they enter West Highland, and quite simply, everybody I’ve ever talked to thinks it is a really cool old house,” Findlay said.

“I’m not sure there’s anything that captures what the essence of something historic is more than that,” he said.

He said he has heard plans of 38 apartment units on the site, but he also has heard rumors of other proposals to develop the property. If the Landmark Preservation Commission recommends historic designation, it will then go to City Council.

What impact that would have on any future development is unclear.

The site cover 15,351 square feet or 0.35 of an acre.

Findlay said he is not “comfortable speculating” about the development, until he knows definitive plans for the property.

In any case, his goal is to save the property, not stop development.

“My concern is with the amazing, special, and timeless house that is already there, and has been there for nearly a century, and protecting and preserving it rather than worrying about what might replace it, Findlay said.

“The purpose is most definitely to preserve a city landmark, a foundation of an entire neighborhood, and a veritable model of the character that draws us all to live in West Highland.

“Once a house of this grandeur and antiquity is gone, it’s gone forever — and with it our chance to learn from, admire, take perspective from, and enjoy its splendor. That would be a terrible, terrible loss for us all.”

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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, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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