Neighbors talk effort to preserve Carmen Court condo complex off Speer

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The condo complex at the corner of 1st Avenue and Emerson Street dates to 1925. (BizDen file)

Neighbors looking to preserve a 95-year-old condo complex off Speer Boulevard already have  crowdfunded the $875 they’ll need to submit a landmark nomination for the structure to the city.

Sarah McCarthy, one of the three Denver residents who recently submitted a notice of intent to the city, and Lisa Purdy, who is assisting in the effort, told BusinessDen last week that they hope developer Hines and the owners of the Carmen Court condo complex will withdraw their request for a certificate of demolition eligibility.

“We would like to have more time so we can formulate something that might work for Hines and the neighborhood,” Purdy said.

Certificates of demolition eligibility make it easier to demolish a structure within five years. Houston-based Hines, which recently developed a downtown Denver skyscraper, is under contract to buy the structure at the southeast corner of 1st Avenue and Emerson Street from the owners of the six units.

A local executive with Hines told BusinessDen last week that the company wants to develop a high-end senior living facility on the site. The executive said the project would be compatible with the property’s current zoning, which allows for up to five stories.

Incorporating a structure into a broader development would appear to be a challenge, given the way the building sits on the site, although Purdy noted that Hines is also under contract to buy several adjacent homes, giving it additional land to work with. She said the building’s use also potentially could change, for example, from residential to office.

The residents who recently submitted the notice of intent are now required to meet with the property owners and/or Hines. After that point, the neighbors can submit the landmark nomination, which comes with the $875 fee. Landmark status, which would need to be approved by Denver City Council, effectively would prevent the building’s demolition.

McCarthy and Purdy said they’re committed to seeking landmark status if Hines doesn’t withdraw its application for the certificate. They raised the funds within 24 hours on GoFundMe this month. 

“Our neighborhood has lost an enormous number of homes that contributed to the character of the neighborhood,” Purdy said. “But none has risen to the historic significance of this property.”

“It’s a very good example of Denver’s ‘City Beautiful’ movement that Mayor Speer instigated in the early 20th century,” McCarthy said.

The building, which features Pueblo-style architecture with a Spanish influence, was designed by Bert L. Rhoades, once chief engineer of the Gates Rubber Co.

The pair said the property has plenty of history, but that they’re also justified in seeking the status on the grounds that it looks good.

“It’s significant to the neighborhood without even knowing the historic background of the property because of the aesthetic value of the property,” Purdy said.

McCarthy said she thinks that “demolition and development is a form of religion in the last decade” in Denver. 

“You can’t tell whether you’re in Cherry Creek or LoHi anymore … that feature of every neighborhood looking alike is spreading,” she said.

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