The Perils of “Historic Designation” in Denver

david foster

David Foster



I am proud of the history of my family in Denver. The Foster Family has been in the 303 since 1970 (yes, we predated the 720 and 10 digit dialing!) But as we have had a nice history in Denver, I wouldn’t exactly say we merit “historic designation” – not that a family can merit historic designation, but as we have all learned recently, a building can.
Designating certain property as “historic” helps to capture a certain memory of an important place or a piece of architecture. In many cases, the historic buildings and the need to keep them intact is obvious. Many people buy properties intending to preserve and even restore their historic qualities. However, once a property is deemed historic, this can severely limit what can be done with the property.
Interestingly, Denverites are given an opportunity to designate not only their own property as historic but can file an application to cause someone else’s property to be designated as historic, even without the owner’s consent. This recently played out in the well documented case of Tom’s Diner on East Colfax. While the Tom’s Diner case was heard, I was handling a similar case for clients who own property in North Park Hill. You can read more about this case and the national issue of historic designation in the Wall Street Journal .
While we were successful in fending off this egregious effort, it caused me to think about ensuring that this should not happen to other people in Denver. For anyone in Denver who owns property that is concerned about guaranteeing you have control over its future demise, you have the right to file an application for a “certificate of non-historic status” which gives you the right to demolish your structure (if over 30 years old) for the next five years without further landmark review or approval. If you have any interest in redevelopment of your property at all, please click this link or call me at the office to discuss.
As I watched the Tom’s Diner story unfold, I considered how vulnerable property owners were to the whims of others and ultimately to City Council members. I also considered how our city continues to change and evolve before our eyes. Some of my favorite places to go when I was a kid no longer exist. My very best Sunday as a kid would include a Broncos game at Mile High Stadium, a trip to Celebrity Sports Center capped off with dinner at the Yum Yum Tree. None of these places exist any longer but I can still cherish the memories of these places and experiences. My children are creating new history in Denver in new and different locations.
The places that created some of our history no longer exist but have been replaced with new opportunities and places for history creation. My hope is that we have many more conversations about our future and how to make sure we create great history for many generations to come. 
Speaking of history, I would be remiss if I didn’t wish those recently celebrating Rosh Hashana a sweet, prosperous and happy new year. 5780 is quite a history!
Previous Post
Next Post
Lindsey Idelberg’s Work Featured in PBS Article

Sign Up for Our Newsletter