If you go

What: Boulder City Council joint dinner with Landmarks Board

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway

More info: The pre-recorded State of the City address will precede the meeting at 5 p.m. To read the complete memo on historic preservation and see the rest of the agenda, go to tinyurl.com/btlq6cz.

Landmark status does not freeze a building in time.

As Boulder officials develop their first historic preservation plan, 39 years after the city started its historic preservation program, they know they need to do more education and outreach about landmark status -- and what it is and is not.

"People have an idea of what it means to be landmarked as opposed to what it really means, that they can't do anything, that the building is frozen," said James Hewat, historic preservation planner for the city. "Change always occurs in historic districts."

The Boulder City Council and the Landmarks Board will meet in a joint dinner discussion Tuesday night after the State of the City address to talk about the historic preservation plan, which the city hopes to finish this summer.

The city's historic preservation ordinance was written and presented in 1974 by residents concerned about the loss of significant buildings. Since then, Boulder has given landmark status to 162 buildings and created 10 historic districts.


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The city has never had a plan, though, that guides its historic preservation efforts. Now, Boulder is correcting that with a $24,000 grant from the National Park Service, distributed through the Colorado Historical Society. Officials have hired Mary Therese Antsey of HistoryMatters to assess the existing program, and they've held one public meeting already, the first of several to come.

"The goal of this initiative is to establish a long-term vision for historic preservation in Boulder, to set priorities for the next 15 to 20 years and to identify specific strategies for achieving the identified goals and objectives of the plan," city officials wrote in a memo to the council.

According to the memo, the assessment found that Boulder has a more comprehensive survey program than many similar communities, and the program is integrated with broader sustainability efforts. However, it offers fewer historic preservation incentives, and outreach and education could improve.

Hewat said some property owners are concerned that landmark status would make it too hard to change or improve their buildings.

That's not the case, Hewat said. Landmark status means there is an extra level of review, but he pointed to the former First Christian Church, 950 28th St., as an example of the flexibility that can accompany a historic designation.

Built in 1961, the church building was designed by Boulder architects Thomas Nixon and Lincoln Jones in the "Usonian" style developed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be a distinctly American, naturalistic style. Its distinct, triangular sanctuary has marked the entrance to Boulder from U.S. 36 for decades.

The building was left vacant in 2010 when the congregation moved to Lafayette. Ohio-based Edwards Communities plans to build The Province, an 84-unit apartment complex for students at the site, with the former church building serving as a community and social center.

Edwards Vice President Steve Simonetti said the landmark process was relatively simple.

"We elected to embrace the process rather than fight the program, and we met with a very willing and cooperative Landmarks Board," he said.

The church sanctuary received landmark status in June.

"It's a great example of adaptive re-use," Hewat said. "If that building hadn't been identified as something significant, it would have been lost. A lot of times, when people go through the process, they find it makes the project richer."

Abby Daniels, executive director of Historic Boulder, said the city has a strong program that has helped make Boulder the community it is today, but it needs new partners.

"There are misperceptions about what it is and how it contributes to economic vitality," she said. "Historic preservation doesn't want to freeze the city in time."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or meltzere@dailycamera.com.