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Terracotta-decorated funeral home may be scraped, replaced with 58 townhomes

Demolition application filed with City
Posted at 12:03 AM, Jun 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-08 09:50:26-04

DENVER -- The arch-porticoed and terracotta-decorated Olinger Moore Howard funeral chapel has been standing sentinel over the northeast corner of 46th and Tennyson since 1960, but its days may soon be numbered.

An application for demolition was filed May 29 with the Landmark Office at Denver Community Planning & Development.

KUH Tennyson LLC has submitted plans to construct seven 3-story buildings containing a total of 58 townhomes, on the two-acre parcel owned by SCI Colorado Funeral Services.

The scale of those plans doesn't sit well with many nearby residents.

"I would hate to see more of these "lego" structures that we've created, because it just totally changes the character of a neighborhood," said Linda Binns, while gardening in her daughter's yard just down the street.

"It's really disappointing," Kerry Baldwin said. "This (chapel) is the kind of building that can be integrated or reused."

Thomas Simmons said he'd like to see the building re-purposed for another use, such as a community center.

He mentioned the old Beth Eden Baptist Church on Lowell Street, which was converted into the Oasis Brewery.

Baldwin and Simmons are members of Historic Berkeley Regis, a group of people interested in the history of the neighborhood, its people and buildings.

"This corner has always had this building," Baldwin said. "It feels like it was meant to be here."

Simmons, an architectural historian, said the shuttered funeral home is special.

"It has some high artistic values in terms of the terracotta ornamentation on the building, which is reportedly from Italy," he said. "The stained glass, carved outdoors...there is just an amazing amount of artistic detail in the building."

Even members of the local business community have strong feelings.

Chris Sullivan, who owns the Berkeley Park Running Company knows a thing or two about history. The building housing his company was built in 1896.

"It was pretty much a dump when we got here," he said, "but we figured it was worth saving and turned it into our shop."

Sullivan said he'd like to see whoever redevelops the Chapel property save some or all of the building.

"It's important to hold on to where the neighborhood came from," he said.

"If they're just talking about mowing stuff over... it will destroy the character," he added. "Throwing it up as fast as they can and making as much money as they can is not something I can get behind."

Ted Strickler, General Manager of Mas Kaos, a pizzeria and taqueria down the street, said he understands the property owner has a right to sell.

"I don't mind more housing," he said, "but I would like it to be a little more varied. Some of these slot houses don't add much character to the neighborhood."

Landmark Consideration

The City's Landmark Preservation team is reviewing the property to determine whether it has the potential to be designated as a landmark.

That assessment should be done by June 12.

If it doesn't, the city will approve demolition, said Alex Foster of Denver Community Planning and Development.

If it does, Foster said they'll enter into a 21 day waiting period, during which a landmark designation application may be submitted by members of the community.

Simmons said, "I don't think there's any question it's eligible both as a Denver landmark and also to the National Register of Historic Places. We've been doing assessments like this for more than 30 years and I can't think of any building more deserving of a designation than this one."