Historic Denver Leads Exploration of Historic Designation for City Park

From: Annie Levinsky – Executive Director, Historic Denver

On February 24 at 6:00 pm, Historic Denver will host an informational meeting about the possibility of designating City Park as a local landmark district. The meeting will be held at L2 Church at 1477 Columbine. It is an early opportunity for citizens to engage in the exploratory work done by a stakeholder group convened by Historic Denver, Inc. in July 2014, known as the City Park Historic Designation Exploration Committee.

Founded in 1882, City Park is one of the oldest parks in Denver. Historic Denver, a non-profit organization founded in 1970, agreed to facilitate this conversation due to a key suggestion in the 2001 City Park Master Plan, as well as recent controversies and requests from community members.

In consultation with the Department of Parks and Recreation, Historic Denver convened a group of 13 stakeholders, including representatives from Parks and Recreation, Community Planning & Development/Landmark Preservation Commission, City Park Alliance, the Council District 8 Office, City Park Friends and Neighbors, and several at-large community representatives.

The goals of City Park Historic Designation Exploration Committee are simple:

  • Explore what local landmark designation can (and cannot) do for City Park
  • Identify the steps needed to make the designation process thoughtful and successful for all stakeholders

Steps being discussed include a potential update to the 2001 Master Plan, followed by the possible development of design guidelines. No decision has yet been made regarding the pursuit of local historic designation for City Park. That decision is one of several steps that lie ahead.

A key finding of the committee to date is that historic designation would not impact the way the park is permitted for specific uses or events; it pertains only to City Park’s physical attributes. Additionally, historic designation does not “freeze a place in time,” but is rather a process for managing change through a public framework.

There will be continuing opportunities for community engagement, both during the exploratory phase and during potential public processes in the future.

This conversation is designed to be the first phase in a four-phase process.

1. Exploration

2. Outreach and education

3. Planning

4. Implementation (if there is continued support for the idea)

Beyond this four-phase process, landmark designation is a formal city process that requires a detailed application, review by the Landmark Preservation Commission, and public hearings at the Landmark Preservation Commission and City Council prior to a full City Council vote. Additionally, other public processes would likely need to precede a designation application, including a potential update to the City Park Master Plan, now nearly fifteen years old.

Historic Denver Executive Director, Annie Levinsky, who is chairing the Exploratory Committee explained, “Before formulating opinions, we thought it important to really understand what historic designation would mean for City Park, and this committee has done some great work to answer that question.”

As background, the group has

  • Reviewed the 2001 City Park Master Plan, which includes a historic assessment
  • Understood the impact of the park’s National Register of Historic Places designation
  • Learned the difference between local, state and National Register landmarks
  • Studied the way landmark designation is used in the management of Civic Center Park, the only regional park currently designated in a local historic district

The group also researched historic park management strategies across the country. This information is available on Historic Denver’s website at http://www.historicdenver.org/programs/city-park

Historic Denver will present background on City Park, information about designation, and more detail on the committee’s exploratory work at an initial community meeting in late February. Our intention for this meeting is to provide the community with the information about the group’s work so far and to create an opportunity for engagement and dialogue.

Please direct questions and comments to Historic Denver: info@historicdenver.org or (303) 534-5288.

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