Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

University agrees to public design forum on Boettcher’s future

The Boettcher Center

The University of Denver and Historic Denver officials have agreed to discuss the Boettcher Center courtyard.

A confrontation before the Denver City Council over a bid to designate DU’s Boettcher complex as a historic landmark was averted last week when officials of the University and Historic Denver agreed on a process for ironing out differences. 

City officials hailed the agreement as a “positive outcome” and agreed to let the landmark designation application die in committee. The parties will now organize a public design forum known as a charrette to discuss ideas for the future of the Boettcher Center courtyard. Details have yet to be determined.

“We are open to a public forum and a design charrette to discuss ideas where we can maintain, as much as we can, the design integrity of that space,” University Architect Mark Rodgers told the city’s Blueprint Denver committee. “DU tries very hard to be a good steward of architectural history as well as to fulfill its educational mission.”

Alice Gilbertson, director of preservation advocacy for Historic Denver, also endorsed the design forum idea, telling the committee Wednesday that the collaborative process “should generate some very creative ideas that are in keeping with the University’s overall goals.”

The agreement means the University will receive a certificate of non-historic status for Boettcher East and can proceed with plans to raze that portion of the complex.

Craig Woody, DU vice chancellor for business and financial affairs, wrote in a letter to Historic Denver: “This building is not code compliant, its outer structure is failing and the building itself is functionally obsolete. Taking down the east wing will enable the University to provide for the south end of campus what the central and north portions of campus enjoy — an aesthetically designed network of functional educational buildings joined by a collegiate scale open green space for the entire community.”

Annie Levinsky, executive director of Historic Denver, said in a letter that the applicants had sought the landmark designation for the Boettcher Complex “because we felt strongly that the 1962 Boettcher Center deserved further discussion by the community prior to approval of its demolition.”

The applicants asserted that Boettcher deserved landmark status because of its mid-century “Formalist” architecture, its connection to significant architects, and its role in regional history, specifically close ties to the aerospace industry and post-World War II research.

Landmark status would have prevented demolition of the east wing and imposed a net of process over what DU could do with the buildings, principally to their exterior. The University opposed that outside control and disputed the historic and architectural significance the applicants alleged. DU also asserted that the University’s evolving educational programs require some buildings to be demolished or repurposed to handle new uses.

DU cannot become “an architectural theme park” to preserve “every example of an architectural style deemed of some value,” Rodgers wrote in a response to the city.

As a result of the compromise, both sides now say they look forward to listening to ideas, sharing perspectives and finding common ground.

Comments are closed.