Buddhists plan to demolish center at Speer, Colfax and build new one

Denver Buddhist temple to be demolished and replaced

The building at 1450 Speer Blvd. houses the Soka Gakkai International-USA Denver culture and worship center. (Eric Heinz photo)

Leaders of a Buddhist culture and worship center in the Golden Triangle are looking to do more with less.

Soka Gakkai International-USA Denver has submitted plans to the city to demolish its three-story building at 1450 Speer Blvd., near the intersection of Colfax, and replace it with a two-story facility that would be about half the size of its current structure.

The new building is planned to be 40 feet high and about 16,000 square feet — the current facility is nearly 31,000 — and would sit back another 10 feet or so from the sidewalk along Speer. The building that sits there now is right up against the walkway.

Buddhist rendering

A rendering of the new Soka Gakkai International-USA Denver culture center, which will be smaller than the existing building. (Renderings courtesy of the city of Denver)

Peter Ewers, president of Golden-based Ewers Architecture, which has been working with SGI on the building plans, said if everything at the city review process goes according to plan, they should be able to break ground before the end of this year.

SGI did not disclose the cost of the project. A general contractor has not been selected.

The building at one time housed Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Co.

“(SGI) bought the building in the 1980s and got a good deal on it,” Ewers said. “They made it work for 30 years. They used what they had, and now they’re in a position where they can say, ‘Let’s do something and make our Denver facility a top-notch facility.’”

Buddhist Paul Niihara

Paul Niihara

The current building was constructed in 1962 on a nearly 1-acre lot. SGI-USA Denver Culture Center Director Paul Niihara said the temple hardly uses the third floor.

“It was already too big for us to begin with,” Niihara said. “We remodeled a few things, but there are a lot of smaller conference rooms.”

Plans for the building’s first floor show four nearly 500-square-foot “Gohonzon” rooms, which hold objects of Buddhist teachings and help people “bring out our unlimited potential,” Niihara said. The rooms would be used for education, prayer and other activities. The main floor would also have a bookstore.

The main 2,660-square-foot Gohonzon would be a 300-person worship room on the second floor.

Niihara said the design of the building is what excites him most.

“It will beautify Speer Boulevard,” Niihara said. “We also do community outreach for people to learn about Buddhism, and the new building will attract people to see what it can offer them and help them in any way.”

There is no landscaping at the site right now, but part of the plan is to separate the parking lot and other open areas with grass and planters. Renderings also show plans to extend pedestrian walkways.

MainGohonzon

This rendering shows the main Gohonzon, which would have a capacity of 300 people.

A Denver design review board on Tuesday advanced the project for further review from the city’s zoning administrator and other city boards, with the recommendations to add more landscaping and other improvements.

The facility at 1450 Speer Blvd. isn’t the only Buddhist temple in Denver poised for redevelopment. The owners of LoDo’s Sakura Square, which includes a temple along with other buildings, want to demolish all the structures on the block and build new ones.

Just north of SGI’s building is the former Denver Diner, which Chase has purchased to convert into a bank branch.

Denver Buddhist temple to be demolished and replaced

The building at 1450 Speer Blvd. houses the Soka Gakkai International-USA Denver culture and worship center. (Eric Heinz photo)

The three-story, 60-year-old building would be replaced by a smaller and shorter one that “will beautify Speer Boulevard.”

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