Possible historic designation could cost homeowner big bucks

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DENVER -- The real estate market in Denver is still red hot, but one woman looking to sell her home is running into a roadblock.

Judith Battista bought her hilltop home in Denver’s Jefferson Park neighborhood in 2007. She painted it pink and made it her own. Built in the late 1890s, the structure is starting to show its age.

“You can see cracks all over it. The gutters are hanging down. The roof needs to be fixed,” she said.

Instead of investing more money for upkeep, Battista just wants to sell it. She said she is not legally able to discuss potential buyers, but would likely get the most money from a developer looking to bulldoze the home and rebuild it.

“This is my retirement. This is my life savings. This is all I have. So, of course I’m going to go with the highest bidder. Who wouldn’t?” Battista said.

In August, she applied for a Certificate of Non-Historic Status in case the highest bidder turned out to be a developer. All Denver homes built before 1986 must acquire the certificate before demolition.

“The city conducts an investigation on the property and if it’s found to have an historic landmark potential then they have to post the site,” explained Denver City Councilman Rafael Espinoza.

Battista’s home was found to meet certain criteria, including historical, architectural and geographical significance. Her application was given to the Landmark Preservation Commission for further investigation.

When Battista applied for the certificate, Councilman Rafael Espinoza filed an application for landmark designation on the property.

“The house has tremendous value and a lot of people would be willing to live there,” he said. "It’s important to a city and the history of us as Denverites to have that sort of, those touchstones back to our past.”

According to his application, Battista owns the boyhood home of Merrill and Burnham Hoyt. The brothers became prominent architects and are responsible for constructing several well-known structures, including Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Denver Central Library and the State Capitol Annex building.

“That in combination with actually the structure itself, the design of the building and how well it’s been maintained,” Espinoza said of the building’s historical worth.

But Battista said there isn’t anything special about the house.

“No. Not at all,” she said. "They didn’t build the house. They didn’t die here. They just spent a short amount of time here.”

She is fighting against the landmark status of the home. She said she will lose out on money when she sells it, and will end up paying three times more for repairs.

“To replace windows alone, you’re looking at $20,000 to do it normal and up to about $60,000 to do it historic,” she said.

Battista said when she bought it nine years ago, she was unaware of the possibility that her home could one day be considered for historic status.

Now she feels like she’s stuck in a losing battle with nostalgia.

“Calling it the ‘Hoyt House’ instead of the ‘Judith Battista Home,' even though I own it, people get behind it,” she said. "The whole process is totally stacked against you.”

The Denver City Council will hold a public hearing on the home’s status on Monday. Council members will vote on which designation to give Battista’s home.

When asked if he will abstain from voting because of a conflict of interest, Espinoza said, "Absolutely not. I was elected to represent this community. I have a very, very unique understanding of the issues there and so I feel that I am absolutely doing what the community has asked me to do. To abstain would be a disservice to this community.”

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