Plans to build a tiny home village on the campus of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church near downtown have been scuttled by the city's Landmark Preservation Commission.
The proposed tiny home village, intended for women and transgender women who have experienced homelessness, had long been supported by the congregation of St. Andrew's, which agreed to host eight tiny houses and two communal structures — a bathing unit and a pavilion — on one of its parking lots near Glenarm Place and 20th Avenue. Since St. Andrew's falls within the Clements Historic District, however, city planning rules require that any construction at St. Andrew's first gain approval by the Landmark Preservation Commission, a nine-member board appointed by the mayor that's in charge of protecting areas of the city determined to have historic, architectural or geographic significance.
Backers of the proposed tiny home village, led by the Colorado Village Collaborative, gave the city detailed architectural plans in March and had high hopes that they would get the green light. The Colorado Village Collaborative had already seen success with its first tiny home village in RiNo, which is still up and running, and the group had city backing in the form of zoning modifications that would temporarily permit tiny homes at the St. Andrew's location. In addition, during the first step of the application process, staff at Denver's Community Planning and Development Department had reviewed the plans and had recommended that the commission approve the tiny home village.
The organization was confident enough in its plans that it began raising money for the St. Andrew's village; while waiting for the Landmark Preservation Commission's decision, the CVC raised over $130,000 toward the $170,000 construction-materials budget, according to organizer Cole Chandler.
But on July 10, with a five-to-one vote (with one present commissioner abstaining), the Landmark Preservation Commission rejected the design plans for the St. Andrew's tiny home village.
Chandler explains that some neighbors of St. Andrew's passionately argued against having a tiny home village within the Clements Historic District, ostensibly for design reasons, at the commission's July 10 meeting.
Andrea Burns, a spokeswoman for the Community Planning and Development Department, says that the commissioners' decision is not based on the fact that the village was intended to house the homeless, but rather is meant to maintain design consistency in the historic district.
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Burns explains that the commissioners decided, based on three subsections of Denver's historic district guidelines, that the proposed tiny home village was out of character for the Clements district, as there are no other examples of buildings with so many accessory structures surrounding them.
In an email to Westword, Chandler explained, "In the end, the Commission seemed to feel like the project was not possible based upon the fact that there are no other primary structures in the district with 10 accessory structures. So it was ultimately a building-form issue. They never even got into some of the details that are called out in the staff report like gabled roofs, fish scale shingles, etc. They simply rejected the idea that a primary historic building could have 10 accessory structures, and didn't feel comfortable setting a precedent."
The decision is a blow to proponents — discussions around a tiny home village at St. Andrew's go back years — but Chandler said that the Colorado Village Collaborative isn't giving up.
"We have a very strong lead on a place in 80205 [Five Points] that would be available to us this fall," Chandler wrote in the email.