A Denver City Council committee on Tuesday unanimously advanced a landmark designation for a Berkeley mortuary, but they did so with the knowledge that preservationists and the building’s owner, who are at odds over the designation, will request an extension to forge a compromise.
The Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s decision means the landmark designation for the Olinger Moore Howard Chapel in Berkeley will now be considered by the full Council.
But members forwarded it with the expectation that the Landmark Preservation Commission — which recommended last month to preserve the mortuary after a developer filed a demolition permit — will grant an extension to the usual 120-day deadline. The extension will give three parties including the developer, the building owner and the group hoping to preserve the building more time to reach a compromise.
Developer Koelbel & Co. filed a demolition application in May. The Denver-based developer wants to demolish the mortuary and build townhomes on the site. The building owner, SCI Colorado Funeral Services, opposes the landmark designation.
During Tuesday’s committee meeting, both Carl Koelbel, vice president of acquisitions and development at Koelbel & Co., and Tom Simmons, of Historic Berkeley Regis, said they’re interested in hitting pause on the designation process and exploring a new proposal. Koelbel said they’re keeping any new terms confidential.
The two groups have already met twice with a third-party facilitator. Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, who represents the district where the mortuary stands, said she heard from the moderator that the meetings have been “intense” but included an “open dialogue.”
Community Planning and Development spokesperson Alexandra Foster said this situations is a bit of test run for what the proposed landmark ordinance update would do: Provide more time in cases involving owner-opposed designations. Foster points out a potential compromise could include no designation at all.
The preservation commission is scheduled to meet Sept. 17 and grant the extension, a day after it appears before City Council for the first time. Foster said the commission should know during their next meeting how much additional time will be requested.