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Truce Called In Historic Designation Debate

Sides Find Common Ground In Efforts To Protect Park Hill

By Jeff Pearson, Mark Davidson, Judy Wolfe, Rebecca Rogers, Calvin Lee, and Shane Sutherland

Special to the GPHN

 As summer nears you may have noticed fewer Historic Park Hill and Stop Historic Park Hill signs in the neighborhood. And while you probably don’t miss the social media debates, you may be wondering about the status of the conversation regarding the proposed local historic designation for the original Park Hill platting, which stretches from the north side of Montview Boulevard to the north side of 26th Avenue, and the east side of Colorado Boulevard to the west side of Dahlia Street.

In October 2016, Councilman Chris Herndon hosted a community outreach meeting with residents impacted by the proposed historic district. After that the Historic Park Hill committee reached out to the Stop Historic Park Hill folks to see if we could find common ground and shared goals for the neighborhood we all love. Several individuals from both committees stepped forward to start a conversation. As a result, Historic Park Hill agreed to put the historic designation effort on hold and Stop Historic Park Hill agreed to put its opposition effort on hold.

The neighbor representatives from both those who support and oppose the historic district concept ultimately agreed that they were concerned about the impacts on the neighborhood of certain total (or virtually total) scrapes of existing homes, followed by the replacement of those homes with much larger and more expensive houses.

These impacts include the decrease in affordable housing options and diversity in Park Hill, the negative environmental impact of home scrape demolition material (the Environmental Protection Agency estimates 80 tons of waste is created from the demolition of one 1,400 square foot house), and the sometimes adverse impact of the much larger replacement home on surrounding neighbors due to increased bulk, height and/or lot coverage.

The representatives of the two groups also agreed that actions taken to address these concerns about certain scrapes and rebuilds should not limit the ability of homeowners to enlarge or expand existing homes in character with the original structure, including by means of so-called pop-ups.

At the end of the day, the representatives of the two groups have decided that it would make makes sense to try to design a Conservation Overlay District (something permitted by Denver’s current zoning code).

Such a district would modify existing zoning in Park Hill (or some portion of it) so as to limit the impact of scrapes that are followed by significantly larger and more expensive rebuilds. This would be accompanied by an effort to implement a pilot program in Park Hill to encourage the retention or reuse of building materials when such scrapes occur.

If successful, these efforts will ultimately require the involvement and assistance of the City of Denver to determine what is feasible, as well as zoning changes and a favorable vote by City Council. Once a Conservation Overlay District concept is fleshed out, the concept will be submitted to Park Hill neighbors for consideration and debate. As this is a change in concept from the previously proposed Historic District, community outreach will need to be redone, and further dialogue will be required.   

Representatives of Historic Park Hill and Stop Historic Park Hill have been meeting the last half-year or so. We are excited about this opportunity to work together to share our ideas and passions in a constructive and meaningful way that we hope will serve our neighborhood now, and as Park Hill continues to grow and change.

While we understand that folks may want to wait until work on a Conservation Overlay District is farther along to make a decision whether fully to endorse it, we hope that members of both our groups will support the continuation of the Conservation Overlay effort. In the meantime, given that historic designation is on hold, some of you may wish to take down yard signs, pending further progress and developments.

The six signatories on this update are members of a group who are trying to help bring about a reconciliation between those supporting and those opposing historic designation in Park Hill.

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