Historic Berkeley Regis makes a bid to stop demolition of Northside mortuary

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The Olinger Moore Howard Chapel mortuary, Berkeley, July 10, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Members of Historic Berkeley Regis on Wednesday filed a landmark designation application to preserve a funeral home in the Berkeley neighborhood slated for demolition to make way for townhomes.

The application was submitted to the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission on Wednesday, the city's Community Planning and Development Department confirmed. It asks the city to preserve the Olinger Moore Howard Chapel at 4345 West 46th Ave. with the historic name Howard Berkeley Park Chapel.

An email from the city's planning department said staff will review the application in the coming days. If it's deemed complete, a hearing will be scheduled before the Landmark Preservation Commission.

William R. Killam, who is listed at the primary contact for the application, said the application was signed by Historic Berkley Regis members. Killam said it's a significant building to the community. The application notes the chapel's historic connection to the city's development and its design quality, which it cites as an example of "mid-twentieth century urban mortuary architectural type."

"It was designed by a well-known Denver architect named J. Roger Musick and it was built in 1960," Killam said. "We think that it's important for the fabric of the neighborhood ... there's been a lot of changes in this community, some good, some bad."

Wednesday marked the deadline to file the application, according to Denver Communications Program Manager Alexandra Foster.

On Tuesday, developers Koelbel & Co. hosted a community meeting at nearby Centennial School to discuss the potential project. Koelbel & Co. is in the process of purchasing the property, which is currently owned by Howard Mortuaries and Cemeteries Corporation.

Carl Koelbel, vice president of acquisitions and development at Koelbel & Co., said on Wednesday the company wants to build 58 townhomes ranging in size from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet on the lot. An application for demolition permit for the site was submitted this spring.

"This site isn't currently housing anybody. It's an opportunity to build more housing in the city without displacing anybody," Koelbel said, adding that he understands the concerns from community members.

Koelbel said even if the historic designation was filed, they would move forward with plans and continue gathering neighbor input on the process. He also said the company will go through some 70 comments they received about what should happen to the lot.

Applications for landmark designation can be submitted by building owners or by community members.

Councilwoman-elect Amanda Sandoval represents the district and said there were more than 100 people in attendance during Tuesday's meeting. She has not officially taken a stance for or against the project yet, since it will eventually come before City Council for consideration.

Sandoval won't be officially sworn in as a council member until next week.

"I do have ideas of what I'd like to see on land use, but when it comes to giving my opinion -- whether to vote yea or nay on the historic preservation -- I can't say that," Sandoval said, that adding the chapel isn't far from where she grew up and currently lives.

Correction: The article has been updated to reflect a demolition application was submitted in the spring, not approved in the spring. 

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