So, Monday night, 40 people signed up to speak about the Denver Channel7 Building, which proposed landmarking from three applicants in the community. I know all three of them: two attorneys and one architect. They believed that the building at 123 Speer Boulevard was impressive, with a Brutalist tower that could support not just landmarking but adaptive re-use.
Well, that went nowhere, unfortunately, although a different set of people wanted to work with the owner and developer through a Memorandum of Understanding. The owner and developer did not want to work with the applicants, but there was mediation that didn’t go anywhere. One might call the different set of people sly, but since council members have the material – and no one else does – CHUN (Capitol Hill United Neighbors) has barged in like it is a hero.
I was keeping a list of people who had used wording about hating this tower: “squat, ugly, privileged elites,” (I love being a privileged elite, don’t you?). Oh, and “a wart on the skyline” (ick). “Why is that there?” (Oh, c’mon). And, as I expected, “require a supermajority” (which I am sure will start to happen almost immediately, since two council members want to huddle about this).
In the future, one would believe that applicants who want to save a building, be aware. Let’s just call it a “hostile designation” rather than an “owner opposed” move. It’s better to make it more blunt and nasty. But Denver has become nasty. Council members and those testifying wanted to beat their chests about needing more housing, but they missed the boat years ago.
Well, guess what: something like eight or 10 years ago, someone in the city hierarchy should have noticed that a huge influx of new residents and a lot of crap was being built, whether a slot home (I shudder) or developers who have paid for small homes that can squeeze in several million-dollar townhomes (that are pretty much all alike). Of course, it got worse. No one had their ear to the ground, but when the money is flowing, who would care, except kicking out people being booted to other cities. Gentrification? That crowd doesn’t care about people…. Just money.
But with this new huge influx of new neighbors, buying something is only for the “privileged elites” who brought a boat load of money with them. And that’s fine. As for the encampments: It’s a mixed bag (I can tell this in my neighborhood), either they could no longer pay the rent or mortgage after losing their jobs during the COVID-19 era, OR they could be happily lounging with propane tanks and stealing bikes and catalytic converters.
When I semi-retired, I began to drive around Denver most afternoons to really see what was going on; when I was working, there were other things to be taken care of. But driving around Denver, I had the chills: At one point, I pulled over my car, and said out loud to no one but me: Denver, what the hell happened to you? Money, of course, and the development cadre found the golden egg, and it has played out over and over. They, too, are the “privileged elites,” who flew into town like a magpie, finding shiny objects that could be trashed.
Preservation has taken a punch in the gut. As I testified, I said: “Only Victorians can survive in Denver.” And to end it, I was quoted in Colorado Politics:
“ ‘This is a monumental building,’ said Mary Chandler, Denver resident who used to write about architecture for the Rocky Mountain News. ‘The loss of this tower would be a loss of the great architecture of the building. There’s been a resurgence in Brutalism appreciation. I fear if buildings like this are lost, Denver will just be Anywhere, USA’ .”
And that is true.
What was really sad was to watch one of the city council members bear down on a city planner who had researched and created an application that the “owner opposed” group could have a chance. Well, it was late, creeping up about 11:30 Monday night, and when this began, my anger was palpable, with tears filling my eyes. I hate when someone showed out how smart that person is, especially in front of a big crowd; try working for a narcissist or a martinet, and you’ll understand. (Note: All of the landmark staff do great work, researching buildings that might have a chance to survive.)
But two council members were surely troubled, as noted by BusinessDen:
“Councilwoman Robin Kniech criticized city staff and the Landmark Preservation Commission for determining the building had the potential to be eligible for landmark status, saying that ‘the adjectives matter’ when it comes to criteria.
“ ‘It’s not just that there was an architect that was known,’ Kniech said. ‘It has to be a significant example. And you have to be able to distinguish why every other building made by that architect wouldn’t count as significant. If everything they do is a significant example, then it’s not significant — it’s just an example.’
“ ‘I’m deeply concerned about the fact that both some, I think, less than rigorous evaluation, and also frankly attempts to designate some marginal buildings might weaken the overall regime that we need to preserve really important examples,’ Kniech added.
“Councilwoman Kendra Black said she voted no because ‘I believe that owner-opposed designations should have a higher bar.’
“ ‘I’ve thought that for all of my time on council, and in 2019, I asked council members if we could talk about it some more but you all did not want to do it,’ Black said. ‘But Councilwoman (Amanda) Sawyer and I are going to reopen that conversation.’ ”
Better examples? Well, have a good time with that. After all, I.M. Pei and his cohorts did great work in Denver, but no one in power cared about it back then, including scraping the hyperbolic paraboloid, and it vanished. How sad. If a supermajority prevails, the city will no longer allow anything except, well, Victorians. Oh, and a maybe a few Queen Anne’s. They’re easy to swallow.
Today, four properties are posted on the page for Demolition & Certificates of Demolition Eligibility, and one of them will be on the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission this afternoon. Good luck, because you might be ready to be humbled and hear the same types of words: privileged elites, etc., etc.
Below are numerous links, from Monday night’s jam-packed city council meeting: Channel7 Building, and the scooters and bikes (yikes: the never-ending conversation), and, of course, the rezoning of Loretto Heights.
Loretto Heights rezoning