The head of the preservation advocacy nonprofit Historic Denver, a prominent voice in the city’s recent landmark debates, is stepping down.
Annie Levinsky, who has been with Historic Denver for 19 years, all but five as executive director, is leaving the role at the end of June. She starts in mid-July as chief of staff for History Colorado.
Levinsky, 42, noted she joined Historic Denver not long after college.
“I have been here pretty much my whole career,” she said.
Historic Denver said it is beginning a national search for a new executive director.
“The impact she’s had on preservation in this city will last for generations,” Historic Denver Board of Trustees Chair John Lucero said in a statement. “And thanks to her tireless efforts, Historic Denver is well-equipped to serve its mission for the next 50 years and beyond.”
History Colorado, formerly known as the Colorado Historical Society, operates 11 museums and historic sites around the state, including the History Colorado Center just south of downtown Denver, according to its website.
“This is an opportunity to expand my horizons and work on a statewide basis,” Levinsky said.
Historic Denver was founded in 1970 to save the onetime Cap Hill home of Titanic survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown from demolition. The organization succeeded in that effort and now operates it as a museum.
In recent years, Historic Denver — and specifically Levinsky — has spoken up in favor of preservation when structures such as Tom’s Diner at 601 E. Colfax Ave. and the Carmen Court condo complex just off Speer Boulevard have been targeted for demolition. The organization has often offered to try to find alternative buyers for a property that would preserve the existing structure.
That approach worked for Tom’s Diner, which is being renovated through a partnership between longtime diner owner Tom Messina and Cleveland-based GBX Group. It didn’t work for Carmen Court, which sold to Houston-based developer Hines in late 2020 for expected redevelopment, although demolition has yet to occur.
Levinsky said one landmark effort that comes to mind is the former Emily Griffith Opportunity School building at the edge of downtown. About a decade ago, while preparing to sell the property, Denver Public Schools applied for a designation that would have paved the way for demolition, even though the system had previously acknowledged the structure could be worthy of preservation, she said.
Historic Denver got involved, and the organization and the school system ultimately jointly applied for landmark status, which effectively prevents demolition. The property was sold to Denver-based Stonebridge Cos., which will reopen it next week as a hotel called The Slate Denver.
“It’s a building, and a story, in our city that’s really significant,” Levinsky said. “Emily Griffith was a pioneer in her time.”
Other Historic Denver initiatives under Levinsky’s leadership include a $1.5 million capital campaign carried out from 2014 to 2017, which Levinsky said led to “some really great collaborative projects,” including last year’s creation of the La Alma / Lincoln Park Cultural Historic District.
Historic Denver has 16 full-time and eight part-time staff members, counting the Molly Brown House Museum, Levinsky said. The organization had revenue of $1.2 million in 2020 and $2.2 million in 2019, according to public tax filings. Levinsky, who made about $92,000 in 2020, noted that 2020 was an atypical year due to the coronavirus pandemic.