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Denver7 GM: Potential historic designation endangers Denver7’s future

Posted at 4:07 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 13:51:45-04

I find myself today in a position no TV station general manager wants to be in, at the center of a story. Right now, an application to landmark the building we own at 123 Speer Blvd. is making its way to the Denver City Council, against our wishes.

So how did we get here? This should be a local success story. Denver7 is growing at a time when so many news organizations around the country are cutting resources and staff. Denver7 is an outlier in that we are expanding the ways we are serving our Colorado communities.

Our building is a 1960s, purpose-built television station. To be blunt, it’s not a nice building in which to work. It is a burden on our staff, our resources and our mission. This building is not well-suited for collaboration. It is dark, disjointed, inefficient, and terribly expensive to maintain. By its very nature, this is an unwelcoming building with no activation at the street level. It is dated and foreboding, offering little to the neighborhood beyond concrete walls and security fencing (an unfortunate byproduct of the current threats against the press). In fact, few Denverites have ever even stepped inside, and fewer will in the future if the site cannot evolve.

Based on that, we recently made the decision to sell with the hope of upgrading to a more modern, collaborative space as close to downtown as possible – a space that would allow us to continue to meet the needs of our journalists and grow as our Denver community grows.

In the process, Denver7 interviewed numerous potential buyers, and not one wanted to keep the existing building. Each professional agreed with our assessment: the building does not meet present standards of livability, accessibility or safety.

Through our diligence, we were able to identify an experienced buyer – a developer we are confident will work with the community to give the site and the surrounding neighborhood something far more attractive, useful, and engaging. We were hoping that our relocation would be the catalyst to create a lively corner for the neighborhood and a welcoming gateway to Denver.

Despite our efforts, an application was filed by three Denver residents to landmark our property against our wishes. The reality is that this could happen to anyone’s property. We believe landmark designation has an important role in preserving the most precious elements of our built environment. However, designation against the will of the property owner should be pursued with tremendous caution and only in the rarest of cases.

This is the wrong building for such an extreme action. Our building does not belong in the same category as truly historic landmarks like The Brown Palace, Larimer Square or Denver Union Station. In fact, it isn’t even a good example of the architectural styles of its time.

We don’t believe the bar for historic preservation is so low that a building like ours should qualify. Unfortunately, the decision has been taken out of our hands.

Landmarking this building would trap our team of nearly 200 local journalists and staff in an outdated purpose-built building that no longer serves its purpose and imperil the future of one of Denver’s longest-standing local news organizations.

We are respectfully asking Denver City Council to honor Denver7’s history of service to this community and the ongoing work of our dedicated journalists by not hamstringing us for the future.

At Denver7 we take our obligation as journalists seriously. To use our reporters and our news programs to advocate for our position would not meet journalistic standards of objectivity and impartiality. We will, however, cover the fate of our building because it is a relevant story about private property ownership in a growing city.

As a result of this application, we will go before the Denver City Council on May 10 and make our case. Members of the public will also be given the chance to speak at that hearing, and in the spirit of open discourse, we invite the community’s comments at that time.