The fate of the Olinger Moore Howard Chapel in Berkeley will be decided by Denver City Council next week.
For months, a brewing debate over whether to preserve the mortuary as a historic structure has pitted the building’s owner, who wants to sell the property for a townhome development, against preservationists and the local community who’ve sought the city’s help to establish landmark designation for the 60-year-old terracotta-roofed funeral home.
Leading the fight to protect the structure at 4345 W. 46th Ave., is the Landmark Preservation Commission, which in June recommended the building be left intact rather than demolished and replaced by seven three-story buildings with 58 townhomes. The new development would be built by KUH Tennyson LLC.
The commission points to the structure’s “direct association with the history and development of the city,” as well as its prominent location and “distinguishing” architecture of the late J. Roger Musick, a Denver architect whose work included residential development, commercial structures and civic institutions.
According to the bill, the structure is identified as one of Musick’s “most important designs” over a 20-year period.
Service Corporation International Colorado Funeral Services, who owns the building at the corner of Tennyson Street and 46th Avenue, “vigorously opposes” the nomination and does not believe the mortuary meets the criteria for landmark designation.
“We have reviewed all of the potential alternate uses. All involve costly updates to the structure and abatement of asbestos,” SCI Real Estate Director Dann Narveson wrote in an August opposition letter to the Landmark Preservation Office. “Virtually all of the alternative uses would require inauthentic alterations to the building features, considered significant in the applicant’s application.”
The battle began in late May, when a demolition application was submitted to Denver Community Planning and Development by Koelbel Urban Homes. Three Denver residents responded in July by submitting a landmark designation application, along with the $875 application fee.
A courtesy public hearing will be held next Jan. 21 in advance of City Council’s vote.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the date when the Denver City Council will vote on the bill.