On Tuesday, June 30, a Land Use, Transportation, and Infrastructure meeting unanimously moved to designate the Berkeley Park Funeral Chapel as a historic Denver Landmark. This is the penultimate step in the designation process, leaving just the full council meeting on Monday, July 27, where council will vote on the designation.
The building was slated for demolition this winter until Historic Berkeley Regis put in an application for the building to be designated as a landmark. Historic Berkeley Regis, according to HBR member Bill Killam, is “a grassroots group that works to explore the history of the Berkeley Regis neighborhood, identify and research important historic buildings, and share this knowledge with the neighborhood.”
According to Killam, Historic Berkeley Regis “entered into a negotiation with the potential new owners, [Koebel and Company]” and were told “if you can find another buyer for this property that will not demolish the property, then we will walk away from the deal.”
Eventually the current owners, GM Development, bought the property and agreed not to demolish the historic building.
Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, who sponsored the application for landmark designation said in the Land Use meeting on Tuesday, “[The chapel designation] was a collaborative event, it was a group of North Denver residents who wanted to see this preserved, an owner who stepped up who is from the neighborhood, and myself.”
The owner who Councilwoman Sandoval was referring to, Ben Gearhart of GM Development, also spoke at the Land Use meeting saying, “The building means a lot to me, being a resident of the Berkeley neighborhood.” He mentioned that the building itself is currently occupied by a church, Redemption Church Denver, and that there will also be a Montessori school taking up residence soon.
The large parking lot that surrounds the building is not protected by the landmark designation and in the future may be developed. However, GM Development has not yet settled on what will fill the space, and according to Gearhart, they are at least “a year and a half out” from starting any development.
For now, the large parking lot that accompanies the chapel will be used as an event space.
It will host concerts, like the Garth Brooks drive-in concert that sold-out the parking lot on Saturday, June 27, as well as drive-in movies. Ben Nelson, a former Berkeley neighborhood resident who has been helping to put on this summer series, said “Watching everyone at Garth was really awesome, because, for just a minute it seemed like everything was a bit lighter.”
Nelson is a production manager who has worked with companies like Red Bull, as well as neighborhoods like Berkely, to create and host events like Red Bull Rampage and this local Garth Brooks show. With the Berkeley Park Chapel, Nelson is trying to create “a hub for people to come and have another option for safe entertainment.”
The city council meeting on Monday, July 27 will be the final “nail in the coffin” preventing the demolition of the former funeral chapel. It will be open for public comment.