David and Goliath can continue to discuss the future of the Channel7 building, but then when it goes to city council, do you want a building — or a plaque?

Yesterday’s Denver Landmark Preservation Commission meeting had a strange vibe when it came to the public hearing involving a tower at 123 Speer Boulevard. An owner-opposed application is always a long haul, and when the owner has the ability and wealth to seek support, the process can become less than pleasant.

Of course, going to Denver City Council will be difficult to muster the votes to save the tower. There are other structures on the Channel7 lot, but the five-story octagonal tower is the building that is most important. 

The owners want to sell the lot to New York-based Property Markets Group so it would scrape the structures. PMG would build a residential project (already zoned for 12 stories), and the station would move elsewhere. The Channel7 building was completed in 1969, and stands like a beacon for those driving on Speer Boulevard or on Lincoln Street. You know where you are, when you are heading downtown. 

In an earlier post, I described the situation: 

“Since there is a lot of land at that angular intersection at Lincoln and Speer, there could be room for an apartment building while saving the major draw: a five-story tower that is imposing, beautiful, and a part of Denver’s history.  Denver’s history has been sliding away bit by bit, as many of us know. But this tower is categorized in the Brutalist style, and Denver doesn’t have many examples of that type of architecture. When you see a tower that sets the layer of crushed red rocks against a gray concrete frame, with fine recessed windows, there should be some way to save the tower for another purpose.”

The three applicants who want to save the building believe it is not just important to the city, but also it could be adapted for other uses; two of the applicants spoke to the commission: attorney Brad Cameron and architect David Lynn Wise (the third, attorney Michael Henry, was not available). 

And the three people who were against the application had completely different information for the commission: Dean Littleton, Denver7 General Manager; Andy Rockmore, principal at Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects, and Brian Connolly, a land planner at Otten Johnson. 

After listening to both sides, the commission members studied the six criteria that would apply to the building. At this point, it becomes clinical, but in the end, six commission members voted yes, and one voted no. 

Quoting from today’s BusinessDen about the meeting, this was the one commissioner who said this:

“ (Commissioner Brad) Gassman expressed concern that the commission was interpreting the criteria too broadly.

“ ‘For me, I’m looking at a lot of these categories and I want us to be critical about this and what it really means,’ he said.”

One of the six, Gary Petri, an architect who has worked in the preservation realm for years, basically said that without saving significant buildings, “we would have a lot of plaques.” 

The other presence in the room was an evaluation from a company in Philadelphia, and commissioning an evaluation by the Heritage Consulting Group cannot be totally reliable. The evaluation shot down all potential 10 criteria, although only six were considered by the applicants. But then, there was this: 

“In an interview for a profile in Architecture new jersey, principal designer William A. Wolfe said, ‘Frankly, we don’t give a hoot about the consistency of our style. What we do care about is the appropriateness of each building’s character to its user and site.’ “ 

The footnote explaining this was an interview in 1984 – long after the building was completed. The building was designed by Fulmer & Bowers. Wolfe was added later to the name of the architecture firm. 

While reading that evaluation by the Heritage Consulting Group, and later when I saw what Wolfe had said, it seemed strange. After interviewing numerous architects over the years, I don’t think any one of them would say they didn’t give a hoot. 

Below are several links, first on BusinessDen, and a host of materials from the landmark staff.


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