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Church’s affordable housing plan nixed by Landmark Preservation Commission

First Baptist Church wanted to build a 12-story apartment building with 20 percent affordable units, but the project will likely have to be scaled back.

DENVER — First Baptist Church’s plan to build a 12-story apartment complex with affordable housing in the church parking lot was denied this week by the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission after commissioner argued the structure’s height wouldn’t conform with the Civic Center Historic District.

First Baptist Church near 13th Avenue and Grant Street is on the edge of that historic district. The height limit within the district is eight stories. Church leaders planned to offer 20 percent of units as affordable housing, which under city rules would have allowed for four more stories.

However, in a unanimous vote Tuesday, the commission voted against the proposal, encouraging the church to come back to the table with a different design.

“It was disappointing for us for sure,” said Kenton Kuhn, property chairman for the church. “But I understand their mission is not affordable housing and ours is. So we’ll reach an accommodation.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner George Dennis conceded that affordable housing is not a consideration of his board.

“The affordable housing it’s noble but it’s not really an issue for us,” he said.

Commissioner George Petri said he’s aware of a frequent criticism that historic preservation doesn’t accommodate affordable housing.

“I think it’s unfortunate that historic preservation has the wrap or has the reputation that it is against affordable housing,” Petri said. “It is not. But what it is about is managing the type of change that makes our environment livable.”

The commission ruled that the designed apartment building would be too big.

“I think the building as proposed is out of context,” Commissioner Nick Foussianes said, noting that the scale of the building being so close to the sidewalk impedes views from inside the historic district.

“It just blocks the sky from so many different viewpoints,” Petri said.

Kuhn said with the commission’s decision, the project will likely be scaled back to eight stories, which may not be able to support the same amount of affordable housing.

“To be able to build a building and realize income from that will be able to help us with the church’s mission and help us do more for the city of Denver,” Kuhn said.

The church plans to submit new plans to the commission soon.  

More stories from reporter Steve Staeger:



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