In a mostly procedural rubber stamp of the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission’s decision, Denver’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to send the issue of the Channel 7 building's landmark status to the full city council.
The council is scheduled to hear the matter and conduct a public hearing on May 10.
Chairman Christopher Herndon reminded the committee members their vote to send the issue to council was not a vote of approval of the LPC’s decision to designate the 51-year-old brutalist architecture-style concrete building at 123 E. Speer a city landmark.
The landmark designation would prevent the sale of the property to a development company that wants to build multifamily housing there, according to documents filed with the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission.
It also would prevent Channel 7 from making any security improvements to the ground floor or to move satellites attached to the building without LPC's approval.
KMGH Channel 7 applied for a certificate of non-historic status in December, so the building could be razed after being sold to a developer.
But in January, three Denver residents filed a notice with the LPC that they think the building deserves landmark status.
Bradley Cameron, Michael Henry and David Lynn Wise are common names in Denver historic preservation circles, especially around the Capitol Hill area.
Scripps Media, the station’s owner, said it couldn’t find a potential buyer that didn’t want to demolish the building. The station has signed a letter of intent with New York-based developer Property Markets Group.
PMG and a local architecture firm explored the possibility of reusing the building, but they “concluded that such repurposing or incorporation is not feasible.”
Mediation sessions yielded no agreements.
Tuesday, staffer Kara Hahn, principal city planner, outlined the reasons why the LPC thought the building met the qualifications for landmark designation:
- More than 30 years old
- Structural integrity remains intact
- Strong example of the brutalist architecture style
- Significant example of architect Fulmer & Bowers work
- Historic designation. The LPC found it’s “one of (Fulmer & Bowers) last television studio designs, and the only example in Colorado.”
LUTI committee members could give no additional weight to the fact the owner opposed the designation. But it could be a mitigating factor council members voting against the designation could cite.
“I’ve got a question about brutalist architecture,” Black continued. “Of all the buildings you showed, the Colorado Education Association building and Denver Police Department headquarters and jail -- I find them all extremely unwelcoming and fortress-like. It seems the opposite of what we’re going for now, in trying to engage the street view and the public. This building seems like the opposite of that.”
Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval questioned the owners and landmark status applicants about the mediation, and if there would be any point in further mediation.
Hahn replied: “I don’t think the parties would gain anything by mediation.”
Discussion then centered around the possibility of increasing the density in that neighborhood to allow a 16-story residential building, to make up for if the Channel 7 building was designated.
“The applicants here live 1-3 miles away, but what we’ve generally heard from those in the neighborhood is that they would not be supportive of that height on that site,” said Scripps' Brian Connolly. “We’d be trading one problem for another … several neighborhood organizations are not supportive of that.”
Sandoval chided Scripps Vice President Mike Epstein for mentioning the building was “purpose built” to be a television studio and would not be suitable to readapt to a residential use.
“Comments like that stop mediation and further conversations from happening,” Sandoval said.
She then demanded to speak to the “building owner” and cut off Epstein as "only an attorney" and the architect on the project, Andy Rockmore.
“I hope these two parties come together and stop talking in absolutes, and compromise,” Sandoval said. “It doesn’t have to be absolute demolition or 100% preservation.”
She then grilled developer representative PMG Managing Director Evan Schapiro about other cities the developer has worked in and any adaptive reuse projects.
“This would be our first major development in Denver,” Schapiro said. “Our platform is geared toward an activated community, from our retail offerings to the lobby being very public facing. The amenities hint of a hospitality feel.”
While some units would be available at lower-than-market rate prices, Shapiro said that could only be achieved with density.
“We went through the public listing process and won this bid. Our bid was the most expensive and we activate that through density,” he said. “That’s how we offer lower rents than what’s in the market.”