Contrasting Forces: Landmark Preservation vs. Redevelopment

What to do with a funeral home that has “become outdated and closed due to a drop in demand?”  That is the question that seems to have an answer from most of us and, in particular, the owner in this case Service Corporation International (SCI).  I’m guessing that most of us would put the building on the market and see who might want to buy it for a redevelopment project.

That is exactly what Service Corporation International thought of doing when they closed their Denver area mortuary known as the Olinger Moore Howard Chapel.  According to this article from BusinessDen, SCI operated the funeral home prior to its closure in January and then found a buyer, Koelbel & Company, which wants to demolish the building and redevelop the site.

But, wait a minute.  It turns out that the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the city council designate the building an architectural  landmark.  According to a person favoring landmark designation more than 600 people have signed a petition in favor of designating the structure a landmark.

At a hearing earlier this week both representatives from SCI and Koelbel & Company spoke out against the designation.  An SCI representative mentioned that they had several buyers but none were interested in saving the building.  The spokesman also stated, “The designation will create an immediate and lasting negative impact to us.”  Koelbel representatives mentioned that the building does no easily lend itself to remodeling.  Their initial plans were to demolish the building and build 58 townhome units.

Funeral Director Daily take:  Through no fault of their own, SCI finds themselves in a sticky issue here.  It appears that they have a buyer to sell this building to and free up some capital that they could deploy elsewhere.  However, neighborhood groups are not in favor of the building being taken down.  If it is required to stay up, it appears that the building is not a slam dunk to be sold or it may be sold, but for a lower price.

And, then there is the issue that the Denver market is very competitive – consolidators Park Lawn Corporation and Foundation Partners both recently entered the market also – and in their goal of monetizing this building asset, SCI probably can’t look past the fact that they don’t want to alienate  potential future clientele.

I’ve found over the years that some buildings truly are important to the heritage of the local community and then also have realized, at other times, that sometimes change is just hard on a neighborhood.  I don’t know this issue good enough to render an opinion, but we will try to keep you informed as to how the City Council ultimately decides.

Related: Here is an article Funeral Director Daily wrote on July 12, 2019, about this issue.

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