How a building receives landmark status

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Applications to receive landmark status are reviewed by the city’s Landmark Preservation team within the Community Planning and Development office. The ordinance laying out the criteria of what makes a building historic was first adopted in 1967.

Buildings receive the designation based on three categories: history, architecture and geography. As part of the application, people need to research the building to verify whether it matches the criteria, said Kara Hahn, principal city planner with Landmark Preservation. Building owners pay a $250 fee.

Buildings that act as directional landmarks within the city fall into the geography category. A prime example is Union Station at 1701 Wynkoop St., a Beaux Arts-style train station downtown dating back to 1881 that has been redeveloped with bar space and retail outlets. Buildings need to meet two of the three categories for landmark status.

The city of Denver recently put together a task force to review the landmark ordinance, specifically the demolition notification process.

In 2006, Denver City Council unanimously voted the public needed to be notified about demolition plans for buildings with potential for historic preservation. But the ordinance does not give people much time to file an application. Once a notice is publicized, the community has up to 28 days to research a building’s history and pay the $875 fee for non-owners.

“That’s a significant threshold to reach, and the amount of research required to write a good designation application is fairly extensive and can take a large amount of time,” Hahn said. “It’s a really heavy load to do in a three- to four-week period.”

The task force comprises members of the city council as well as the public. In addition to the demolition notices, Hahn said the task force created a list of topics on preservation it would like to address.

Some cities, such as San Francisco, have added cultural history to preservation criteria. Hahn said there is some interest in doing that in Denver. In particular, she has researched buildings making strides in the LGBTQ community.

“This is something that is important to the city — but it’s important to me personally — is that all parts of Denver are represented in our landmarks,” she said, “so what is designated or what is preserved represents the Denver population.”

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