The mortuary hasn’t been buried yet.

1 Olinger Screen Shot 2019-07-11 at 10.45.40 AM

And that’s because the Olinger Moore Howard – Berkeley Park Funeral Chapel at 4345 West 46th Avenue apparently is poised to become a designated landmark.

How things change. And how things can change when there is more time to discuss and meet in the middle.

Last month, a Facebook post from the neighborhood organization Historic Berkeley Regis noted:

“Historic Berkeley Regis is pleased to announce that our efforts to preserve the Berkeley Park Chapel are producing positive results. A new buyer has signed a purchase and sale agreement with the owner, Service Corporation International of Houston. The buyer, who has agreed to preserve the building and have it designated as a Denver Landmark, will begin a period of due diligence study of the property, with closing anticipated early in 2020. This outcome would not have been possible without our community support–thank you all! Also instrumental in this effort were Historic Denver; Berkeley Neighborhood Association (BNA); and Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval (District 1), who arranged for negotiations among the interested parties.”

The information was posted right before Christmas, and was included in Historic Denver’s monthly newsletter sent out a few days ago.

But then, last week, a sign went up in front of the chapel, announcing that the situation with the structure would be discussed at the Board of Adjustment at 11 a.m. on January 14.

Historic Berkeley Regis posted this when the sign went up:

“This meeting is related to a September challenge filed by SCI (the current owner of the property), which argued that a super majority (10 out of 13 votes) of City Council is needed for designation of a Landmark if the owner is not supportive. It does not appear that this hearing will impact the ongoing sale of the property by SCI to the new purchaser who will preserve the Chapel, as a purchase and sale agreement has already been signed.”

Isn’t it great when someone pulls a rabbit out of a hat to get a super majority on the table? Not really. After all, the mortuary popped up last June on the city’s list of potential demolitions for structures that could be potential landmarks.

If all goes well, let’s call this sale – and landmark designation — a gift to the community.

In November, the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission approved a second “pause” to extend discussions between the owner of the Olinger Moore Howard – Berkeley Park Funeral Chapel, and the people who want to save the mortuary by supporting an owner-opposed designation.

There already had been one extension for more talk, through November 18, but the parties involved asked for another, through January 31, 2020.  The owner of the mortuary and Koelbel & Co. wanted to redevelop the land, scraping the 1960s building and replacing it with townhomes.  The discussions have been confidential involving the owner, the developer, and the preservation advocates.

The mortuary, designed by well-respected architect J. Roger Musick, is significant to the neighborhood.

As of November 1, the city’s updated landmark ordinance includes a “pause,” so that during owner-opposed applications moving through the system, there is more time for the owner and the applicants to talk things through to find a solution. This new wrinkle in allowing extensions among interested parties makes sense, clearing away some of the toxic atmosphere. It worked for Tom’s Diner, and it probably will work for the mortuary.

For weeks, at the end of the agenda for the Denver City Council includes a note under the heading of “pending” that a public hearing on January 21 will be scheduled for comments on the potential designation. (That meeting is on a Tuesday, since the day before is a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

I’ll be tuning in.

Below are links to information on Historic Berkeley Regis, the agenda for the upcoming Denver City Council meeting, and the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Adjustment.

Click to access Agenda_1_14_20.FINAL.pdf

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