Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Building may replace history on corner of University and Evans

The 77-year-old former residence of DU’s sixth chancellor may be demolished as part of an emerging plan to put a 10–12 story building on the southeast corner of University Boulevard and Evans Avenue.

If the project is implemented, it may spell the end for the distinctive Art-Deco style structure.

The complex being envisioned would be built on property presently occupied by the Wesley Apartments — a two-story, red-brick corner residence at 2100 S. University Blvd. — and the five structures immediately south. Four of the buildings are single-family residences built from 1898 to 1910. The fifth, at 2142 S. University, is a two-and a-half story, four-family flat constructed in 1931 and occupied for a time by former Chancellor David Shaw Duncan and his wife, Laura.

Duncan, who captained the University from 1935 to 1941, lived in the apartment before being named chancellor. He subsequently moved to 2255 S. Columbine St., where he died in 1941 nearly five months before he was due to step down from the helm of DU after a 35-year University career.

The Art Deco apartment, named University Manor, was nominated for historic landmark status by the University Park Community Council (UPCC). However, the application was withdrawn early in May as part of an agreement between the council and developers David Elowe and Phillip Caplan.

“We’re very excited,” Caplan says. “It’s a tremendous location and we want to do something beneficial to the neighborhood.”

Plans for the project are still preliminary, Caplan emphasizes. But he envisions some combination of ground floor retail shops with residential apartments above and parking tucked in the back. The structure would be a maximum 120 feet high — about 10–12 stories depending on design — and would be built on the 44,000 square feet the developers own south of Evans and east of University a half block to the alley.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Caplan says. “A lot of [our decisions] will be market driven.”

The developers’ first step is to have the property rezoned from the R-3 designation it presently has to RMU-30, a mixed-use category that would allow the combination of residential and retail uses. UPCC has agreed to support the rezoning as long as the developer abides by a number of negotiated items, which include the 120-foot height restriction, the promise to wrap the retail shops around parking and an agreement to pay up to $15,000 toward a historic survey of University Manor if necessary.

The former apartment is regarded as historically significant for its patterned, multi-color brick facade, windows and doors, leaded glass fixtures and connection with DU and the University Park neighborhood.

The building was home to several DU professors in addition to Duncan, who became chancellor during one of many tough times in the University’s history. Despite advances in enrollment and significant gifts to the University, the impact of the Depression left DU with an “unbalanced budget and substantial deficit,” according to historian Allen D. Breck in From the Rockies to the World: The History of the University of Denver, 1864-1997.

“He [Duncan] balanced the budgets and paid the debts, until today the school is free of debt and has a modest surplus,” the Rev. Frederick J. Cox wrote.

UPCC officers have investigated moving University Manor to another location but believe the cost to be prohibitive.

In a letter supporting the landmark status, historian Tom Noel calls University Manor “a charming, architecturally distinctive and historically significant relic” that represents a “vanishing building type.”

A spokeswoman for the city of Denver says the rezoning application for the corner is in preliminary stages and not yet posted for public review.

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