Preservationists hope for compromise amid effort to save Denver funeral home

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DENVER – The old Olinger Moore Howard Chapel mortuary closed earlier this year. Neighbors objected when owners filed for a demolition permit.

The North Denver funeral home is the latest battleground in a war over property rights versus the desire to defend history. It's similar to the high-profile Tom’s Diner controversy-- where the owner made a deal with preservationists in order to sell his property.

“The community has a lot of history in this building," said preservationist Kerry Baldwin.

Baldwin, who lives in the neighborhood, wants to protect the building.

“It is a great old building," she said "It was built by a master architect.”

Baldwin and her allies say they aren’t against development, but they most certainly are against a wrecking ball. They want the structure reused instead of demolished.

The Olinger Moore Howard Chapel, at 4345 W 46th Ave., has served North Denver for nearly 60 years. it’s known for its terra-cotta tile exterior arches. It is also located on a developer’s dream corner-- across from Berkeley Lake Park and just north of the Tennyson business district. It's in an area that has experienced a boom of residential and commercial construction in recent years.

“I think it could be of many uses instead of tearing it down and building more condos,” said Laura, a longtime resident

Everyone who spoke to FOX31 along Tennyson Street on Monday said they support preservation. But there’s also a desire and understanding of a property owner’s right to have control over their own destiny.

Activists are working toward middle ground similar to the story of Tom’s Diner. In the end, Tom found a solution that will eventually allow for new development that pays homage to the Googie-style architecture of his eatery.

The company that operated the old funeral home is located in Texas. Their representatives told FOX31 they plan to share development details in the coming weeks.

Denver City Council is scheduled to vote on landmark status on November 12. It's possible that a vote won't be necessary if the property owner and preservationists reach a compromise prior to November 12.

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