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If you see a 'certificate of non-historic status' this is what it means

The sign doesn't necessarily mean the building or structure is going anywhere.

DENVER — A sign posted on the Bonnie Brae Tavern says the city has received an application to certify the tavern as "non-historic."

It's led to questions about whether the restaurant is set to be demolished.

When a sign like this appears, it does not necessarily mean the building it's on is going anywhere. But it does mean the building is not officially a historic site in Denver, so it's not protected from demolition, either. 

The sign does mean the city thinks the building has the potential to get a historic landmark designation. Then, it is up to the community to apply.

We spoke to Alexandra Foster from Denver's Community Planning and Development team about the in-depth answers for what this sign means, why it would be posted and how we all play a big roll in designating local landmarks. 

Credit: Corky Scholl

9NEWS: When a 'Certificate of Non-Historic Status Application' sign is hung, what happened to put it there? 

Foster: Anytime any building – whether it’s a landmark or not – applies for a demolition permit, by law our landmark preservation team reviews it to see if it has any historical, geographical or architectural significance and whether it has the potential to be a local landmark.

When someone applies for a certificate of non-historic status, they basically just want to keep their options open. It may not necessarily mean they want to demolish the building. It may be that they want to develop it in a certain way.

Not every building has the potential to be a landmark though, right? 

No, no, not every building has the potential to be a landmark. In this particular case [Bonnie Brae Tavern], our landmark planners looked at it and determined there is potential for designation. So when that happens, they’ll put a sign outside that says someone has applied for a certificate of non-historic status.

What can the community do if they feel a building is a historical landmark? 

If they want to make sure the building is protected, they can come forward and apply for designation. There’s a period of three weeks during which they can do that.

The applications are pretty extensive and do require some research, so it isn’t just a matter of someone saying, 'Hey, I think this building is a landmark.' There is some legwork that has to be done.

What are the details concerned community members should know to fill-out a good application? 

People obviously treasure the Denver landscape and when they see that there’s potential for change in a block that they have known all their lives, people do have a reaction. 

But the building or structure has to either have historic significance – a significant place in the story of Denver, or the history of Colorado, maybe a historic person lived there, maybe something important historically happened there.

It has to have architectural significance. 

And it has to have geographic significance. That’s sort of hard to explain but it basically means when you’re giving someone directions, ‘that house on the corner, turn left.’ So it’s something that’s recognizable as part of the geography of the community.

The application has to determine that the building meets criteria in two of those three categories. And if it does, the building will be reviewed by city council.

What if no one from the community comes forward with an application? 

Well then we would approve the certificate. That means for the next five years our landmark team wouldn’t review a demolition application.

Is it a tough balance between working with community members and business owners? 

Within the city, our job is really to provide the tools for the community to be able to step forward. If they want to designate the building we sort of usher them through the process. Likewise, we also work with property owners. And when it’s the property owners who are coming with a certificate application, part of our job is to make sure we follow all the steps correctly.

We’re definitely interested in preserving those neighborhood gems that people really love but we have to balance that with property rights.

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