Historic preservation is explored with public input

Posted 2/17/09

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives …” — Abraham Lincoln On a Thursday night at the Buck Center, a group of nearly 100 …

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Historic preservation is explored with public input


“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives …”

— Abraham Lincoln

On a Thursday night at the Buck Center, a group of nearly 100 Littleton residents were asked to answer three questions:

“What are the key neighborhoods, districts and resources you want to preserve in Littleton?” “How should those resources serve Littleton?” and “What is the role of historic preservation in downtown?”

After nearly two hours of discussion, a giant list was compiled that included everything from preserving the Louthan neighborhood to Arapahoe Community College, to the train depot and light rail station.

Enhancing community livability, protecting cultural resources and providing delight in the community experience also made the list.

“This community values preservation, but the devil is in the details,” said Mayor Doug Clark, referring to the growing list of issues, information and ideas surrounding historic preservation.

There are complicated layers of definitions, locations, reasoning and regulations about historic areas and properties.

Many of the projects suggested by community members — such as zoning and parking issues — employ the work of both the city’s planning commission and the historic preservation board.

“We were given a lot of different directions that dovetail,” said Bill Hopping, director of the Littleton Historical Preservation Board.

Littleton’s planning commission is working in tandem with the historical board to develop a comprehensive plan to “preserve Littleton’s unique sense of place and identity, while encouraging the reinvestment and compatible redevelopment that will enhance Littleton’s economic vitality.”

Littleton’s downtown is known throughout the metro area as an attractive spot for shopping, dining, entertainment and nostalgia. It’s a mix of late 19th-century and early 20th-century brick buildings, with a few mid-20th-century spots tucked in. Each building carries a story about how it was used, and by whom, and part of the downtown is in a National Historic District.

Though quick to note that the intention is not to put Littleton’s historic buildings “under a bell jar for observation,” preservation and planning guru Nore Winter said there are benefits to maintaining the “integrity” of a building.

“While life goes on, key features are maintained,” Winter said. “Preservation doesn’t mean stopping development. It doesn’t prevent alterations. These are living, working structures.”

But preservation does have economic benefits. It promotes sustainability, increases property values, creates jobs, recruits business and supports tourism, according to Winter.

In 2001, the Colorado Historical Foundation undertook a project to document the economic benefits of historic preservation in Colorado.

The economic impacts of preservation extend far beyond the initial dollars spent, according to the report.

For example, a contractor may purchase paint for a rehabilitation activity. The contractor may also use some of her earnings to buy groceries at a local store. The purchase of the paint is a direct impact, but the purchases made by the paint factory, and the contractor’s purchase of groceries, are indirect impacts.

Additionally, historic preservation often is a key factor in enhancing property values.

Communities are able to reuse public infrastructure, maintain a sense of community and place, and support locally owned businesses, keeping downtown investment dollars within the community.

Eight Colorado Main Street communities have attracted considerable private investment since 2001, totaling more than $21.5 million in their downtown districts, according to the report.

In Littleton some building owners are trying to decide what makes economic sense for them. Others have already sought local historic designation from the city, while more refuse to for assorted reasons. Property rights are a major concern.

The next True Grit Forum will be from 7-9 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Buck Recreation Center, 2004 W. Powers Ave., Littleton.

The forum discussion will focus on alternatives for downtown Littleton.


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