Developer strikes deal with Littleton historic society to protect century-old barn

Structure had been in jeopardy as it faced looming development plans

Robert Tann
rtann@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/28/22

An effort to save a century-old barn on one of Littleton's last remaining parcels of undeveloped land proved successful — at least for the next several years — after a developer agreed to protect the structure that had been previously eyed for demolition.

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Developer strikes deal with Littleton historic society to protect century-old barn

Structure had been in jeopardy as it faced looming development plans

Posted

An effort to save a century-old barn on one of Littleton's last remaining parcels of undeveloped land proved successful after a developer agreed to protect the structure, which had been previously eyed for demolition.

Gail Keeley, president of the nonprofit Historic Littleton Inc., struck a deal with Toll Brothers, the nation's fifth-largest home builder, to move the barn away from development planned for the 77-acre site it sits on, which is just south of Santa Fe Drive and Mineral Avenue.

The agreement came July 20, according to Keeley, who said it represents a win for one of the “few remaining structures that show evidence of Littleton’s agricultural history."

Built in 1918, the barn features a unique "bank barn" design that provides ground access to both the upper and lower levels of the structure. 

“The architectural style of a bank barn is exceedingly rare, especially in an urban area," Keeley said. “The fact that one has survived for 100 years, especially in an urban area, is pretty phenomenal." 

The site was determined eligible by the Colorado Department of Transportation for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places during a 2004 survey, though no steps were ever taken to claim designation, Keeley said.

The nonprofit had been pushing for a historical designation for the barn, filing an application with the city in April to do so.

But its conditions are poor, according to Toll Brothers, which is forging ahead with plans to redevelop the site and surrounding area with hundreds of homes and more than 30,000 square feet of commercial space. The developer secured a sale of the parcel of land that contains the barn June 15, according to Mike Sutherland, deputy director for community development.

Among the findings of an independent reviewer hired by Toll Brothers, which were presented to the city's Historical Preservation Board during a study session April 21, were that the barn's roof is incapable of supporting snow and that the site is "neither safe for occupation nor moving to a new location." 

The developers' remedy was to demolish the barn and, possibly using some of its original materials, build a reconstruction elsewhere on the property that would be used as an amenity on the site.

But Keeley said reconstruction would lose the barn's historical significance as it "has been associated with that property for 100 years."

“I was very straightforward about our goals — we wanted to save that barn," Keeley said.

After two meetings with representatives from Toll Brothers, Keeley and the developers came to an agreement that the barn would be moved to a new location near the site that will be a separately owned parcel of land. As part of the agreement, Keeley said Historic Littleton withdrew its historical designation application. 

Toll Brothers did not respond to a request for comment about the agreement. 

According to the agreement, a landmark designation for the barn will not be pursued for at least two years after homes are built, or until July 20, 2032, according to Keeley.  Sutherland said he envisions the barn could be renovated under such a designation to serve as an amenity for the new area.

“At the end of the day a great community asset is preserved and hopefully it will make that future neighborhood around it a better place," Sutherland said, adding that the "city is delighted” with the outcome. 

While renovation may come with a heavy price tag, grants could help cover the cost, said Sara Doll, outreach specialist for History Colorado, which offers grants for such projects.

The assessment grant, which can award up to $15,000 to applicants, would be a first step in understanding the needs of a historic site and how much preservation efforts could cost. Applicants can also apply for much larger grants for projects, with some awarding hundreds of thousands over several years. 

The consensus between a mega-developer and concerned city resident shows another side of Littleton's reaction to growth and development, which for some has sparked concern and tension. 

"It demonstrates how developers are part of our community as well," Sutherlands said. "Developers, for the most part, want to improve our community and I think that this is a demonstration of that."

For Keeley, the outcome is a  "win-win," she said. 

Correction: A previous version of this article said that the barn would be protected for at least two years after homes are built, or until July 20, 2032. It has been updated to accurately say that a historical designation for the barn will not be pursued for at least two years after homes are built, or until July 20, 2032.

Toll Brothers, Canary Barn, Littleton, development, housing, Littleton history, Historic Littleton Inc

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