On Feb. 20, local preservation group Historic Berkeley Regis announced that the Howard Berkeley Park Chapel it’s been working for months to preserve via landmark designation has been sold to a new owner that has committed to keeping the historic building as it redevelops the property.
The chapel, a former Olinger Moore funeral home that closed in January 2019, and the 2.05-acre lot it sits on were sold to GM Development for $4.5 million according to public records.
The company is owned by Northwest Denver residents Charles Moore and Ben Gearhart, who have experience in the rehabilitation and repurposing of historic buildings, and who also own MODUS Real Estate in Sunnyside. Historic Denver honored the duo with a Community Preservation Award for their work on The Essex in North Capitol Hill in 2019.
The new owners have big plans for the chapel on the northeast corner of Tennyson Street and West 46th Avenue to include retail facing the park with housing above, activating the north end of the Tennyson shopping district.
Moore said he and Gearhart are thrilled that the chapel’s first new tenant will be Redemption Church Denver, which is expected to start services in the building as early as March. The church will utilize most of the west side of the building, including the chapel, a couple of offices and likely space for their daycare. He said GM Development hopes to utilize the space for events, like weddings, in connection with the church.
Moore said they need to determine what all the uses in the chapel will be so they can determine parking needs before they can determine how they want to develop the rest of the land.
He acknowledged that an architect working on their behalf submitted an early-stage development proposal to the city that would essentially wrap the chapel with a three story, 140-unit apartment building, but said that is not their intent and he doesn’t believe it would be permitted.
“We submitted very preliminary plans for the highest use — and that doesn’t always mean best use — but we wanted to understand what the restrictions would be because there’s a pretty good slope and a sewer system,” Moore explained. “We really need to understand the long term use of the chapel will be and that will dictate what we can do with the rest of the site as well. There were far more units on the initial plan submission than you could really do given the parking restrictions. It’s probably not possible to do more than 90 units, and likely even less once you account for parking for the church.”
SCI and Koebel’s initial development proposal called for 58 townhomes and later dropped to 40 with 3,000 square feet of retail.
Moore said the plans GM Development is considering include retail end caps overlooking Berkeley Lake Park and activating the north end of the Tennyson shopping district. He said they anticipate about 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of retail with housing above — and a historic chapel preserved with landmark status.
GM Development has advertised an additional 8,000 square feet of divisible space on the east side of the chapel building for retail, commercial or office space. Moore said they hope to get some creative ideas they hadn’t already had, and that while most of the inquiries thus far have been for office space, they have also had a couple of restaurant concepts proposed. He said they will make decisions on how to lease the space over the next few weeks and hope to have the space filled by the end of the year. (You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information about leasing the space.)
A covenant between Service Corporation International (SCI), the previous owner, and Historic Denver protects the building from demolition until GM Development is able to submit a new landmark application. Historic Berkeley Regis had submitted an application to prohibit demolition of the building after owner SCI and developer Koelbel & Co. had announced their intention to do so.
The preservation effort was supported by the Berkeley Neighborhood Association, Historic Denver, Colorado Preservation, Inc., a GoFundMe campaign and more than 800 petition signatures. Historic Berkeley Regis halted the initial landmark application as part of months-long negotiations to identify a new owner and developer who was willing to preserve the chapel.