Planners urge approval of Tears-McFarlane rezone

Café concept proposed for historic site

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The Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods’ board president, Travis Leiker, believes the future plans for the Tears-McFarlane mansion will be an amenity for the neighborhood.

“It will be a place that neighbors can truly enjoy and cherish as an integral part of their community,” Leiker said.

On Sept. 2, Denver’s Planning Board decided to give a recommendation to approve the rezone proposal for the Tears-McFarlane mansion, 1290 Williams St. It will now head to Denver’s Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which is a subcommittee of city council, for review. The meeting will be public, but there will not be a public hearing. Denver City Council will make the final decision, with an expected date of Oct. 26 for another public hearing and city council’s vote on the matter.

“I want to thank all of the neighbors who participated in this process thus far — providing ideas during focus groups, completing community-wide surveys in Cheesman Park and co-authoring the Good Neighbor Agreement,” Leiker said. “We are energized by the days awaiting the Tears-McFarlane.”

The Tears-McFarlane mansion is a CHUN-owned property just north of Cheesman Park. The Colonial Revival style mansion was built in 1899 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. It was gifted to CHUN in 2005, and the organization took full ownership of it in 2015.

In 2016, selling the mansion was brought up as a relief to CHUN’s financial struggles, but the board of directors voted to keep the mansion because of its value to the community, Leiker said.

CHUN entered into a partnership with City Street Investors LLC, a Denver-based real estate investment company, and eventually the current concept came about that potentially generate revenue while also serving as a community gathering spot.

The rezone for the Tears-McFarlane mansion proposes new development plans that include opening a small café with a full coffee shop. The café will serve breakfast snacks and juices; grab-and-go salads, fresh deli sandwiches and desserts; and beer, wine and specialty cocktails.

It is envisioned to be an amenity to Cheesman Park’s neighbors and visitors, Leiker said.

“The new café concept … promotes a stronger sense of community while contributing to the preservation of this grand home,” said CHUN board member Debbie Young. “Houses like the Tears-McFarlane make Denver interesting and they make Cheesman Park an extraordinary park for all.”

The rezone application, which was filed on Jan. 2, is for a Planned Unit Development — which allows for customized, site-specific development — with general urban neighborhood standards. It also requests to create two subareas so development standards can be addressed separately for the house, which is roughly 6,000 square feet; and the adjacent Hedlund Hall, better known as the mansion’s annex building, which is about 2,000 square feet.

The café is proposed to be custom-built where the hall is today. Unlike the mansion, the hall does not have historic designation — it was built in the early 1980s to serve as an event center. The new café will be roughly the same size as the structure that’s already there, said Pat McHenry, principal with City Street.

As for the mansion itself, CHUN plans on keeping its headquarters there, leasing office space to small businesses and nonprofits, as well as making it available for small public events and meetings and CHUN programming.

However, it is in need of some costly renovations.

City Street is partnering 50-50 with CHUN on the proposed project, which could cost north of $3 million, including financing the mansion’s revitalization costs, McHenry said. CHUN will sell 50% of the property equity to City Street, and retain a 50% interest. Proceeds of the sale will go toward an endowment for CHUN services.

The Tears McFarlane mansion is “an icon and treasure to be preserved to maintain the character of historic Capitol Hill to live on for future generations,” said CHUN board member Peggy Randall. “I believe in creating something new and visionary for our Capitol Hill community. What’s better planning our future than a cup of coffee or glass of wine after a beautiful walk or bike ride around specular, historic Cheesman Park.”

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