Landmark Design Review

Design reviewDesign review focuses on any exterior work, demolition or development on the site of a locally designated Denver landmark or within the boundaries of a historic district.

Design review ensures that a proposed project preserves key historic features and is compatible with the character of designated historic buildings, sites and districts.

Once a project is approved in design review, Landmark Preservation staff issues a Certificate of Appropriateness, which may be presented as part of the zoning and building reviews that follow. Please follow the steps below to complete the historic design review process.

Specific Project Types

Click on the project type below to obtain more information about the Landmark design review process.

A pre-application review and meeting with Landmark Preservation staff is required for all projects involving infill construction for primary structures.  All infill projects require review by Landmark Preservation Commission or the Lower Downtown Design Review Board through a two-step process.  To review applicable design guidelines and apply for a pre-application review go to Design Guidelines and Application Materials.

Small additions without visibility from public streets:

A rear addition that is under 900 square feet or adds less than 40% square footage to existing above grade square footage may be approved administratively by Landmark Preservation staff if the addition clearly meets the design guidelines, does not trigger demolition review (see the Demolition Review page), and is not visible from the public street (not including the public alley). To apply for a small addition without visibility from public streets, follow the Design Review Process below beginning at Step 2.

Other additions:

Large additions that do not meet the criteria above are subject to review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board.  This includes but is not limited to additions visible from public streets, such as rooftop additions, building additions on corner lots, and two-story additions.  A pre-application review and meeting with Landmark Preservation staff is required for all large or visible additions.  To apply for a pre-application review go to Design Guidelines and Application Materials.  

New one-story garages and small accessory structures may be approved administratively by Landmark Preservation staff if the proposed construction clearly meets the design guidelines.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) require a pre-application review and meeting with Landmark Preservation staff. All ADUs require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission. To review applicable design guidelines and apply for a pre-application review go to Design Guidelines and Application Materials.

Applications for zone lot amendments require a pre-application review and meeting with Landmark Preservation staff. Zone lot amendments also require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission to determine whether the zone lot combination or split adversely affects the character or integrity of the historic district, Denver landmark, or any contributing or designated structure in the area.

Zone lots are the land designated as the building site for a structure; also, the land area occupied by a use or a structure. Zone lots provide a boundary for a defined area of land to which the Denver Zoning Code’s regulations for land uses and structures apply. Prior to new development, Denver Zoning staff must confirm that a legal zone lot exists that meets zoning requirements in terms of size, dimensions, street frontage, etc.
The Landmark Preservation Commission and Lower Downtown Design Review Board strongly encourage the retention of historic windows.

The replacement of historic windows requires a pre-application review and meeting with Landmark Preservation staff. To review applicable design guidelines and apply for a pre-application review go to Design Guidelines and Application Materials.

Some alterations can be administratively reviewed and approved by Landmark Preservation staff. Other alterations will require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board. All projects are required to conform to applicable design standards and guidelines.

Quick Review:
Minor work requiring permits but introducing little to no visible change to a historic structure or property may be subject to the Landmark Quick Review and Approval Process. Applicants may submit the quick review application form to Landmark Preservation staff during counter hours or may email the application to Landmark Preservation (see Contact Us at right). Quick review applications are typically processed within one business day of receipt by Landmark Preservation staff.

Quick review approvals may be issued by Landmark Preservation staff for like-for-like replacement of the following existing exterior features providing that the applicable design guidelines and standards are met:
  • rear yard decks and porches (must demonstrate no change in size, height, materials and ornament)
  • rear yard fences (no change in height, openness and materials)
  • 1-2 flat profile skylights
  • sheds not on foundations (less than 100 square feet)
  • exterior HVAC work (no change in geometry, demand or materials)
  • simple exterior mechanical work
  • reroofing (no change in materials)


Alterations to a Façade that is Not Visible: 
Alterations that are not visible from the public street (not including a public alley) may be approved administratively by Landmark Preservation staff if the alterations do not impact the form of the structure, do not impact significant architectural details, and clearly meet the design guidelines [insert link]. The type of alterations that may be administratively approved may include window and door replacements or changes to a few window and door openings, new or altered porches, new decks and balconies, new awnings and canopies, new rear dormers, alterations and additions to garages and secondary structures, and site changes. To apply for Landmark Preservation design review for non-visible alterations, visit the Design Guidelines and Application Materials page, and go to the General Design Review tab.

Alterations to a Façade that is Visible:
Alterations that are visible from a public street (not a public alley) require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board. To apply for Landmark Preservation design review, visit the Design Guidelines and Application Materials page, and go to the General Design Review tab.

Landmark Preservation reviews applications for signage on all buildings in historic districts and all Denver landmarks, including comprehensive sign plans. Applications are reviewed for consistency with the appropriate design standards and guidelines

To apply for signage, complete and submit the sign application form, checklist, and all required submittal materials to Landmark Preservation staff.

For more information about the demolition review process, go to Demolition Review.


Landmark Design Review Process

A summary flow chart of the design review process (PDF) is available here.


Pre-Application


A pre-application meeting with Landmark Preservation staff is required for projects involving infill construction, second-floor (pop-top) and rooftop additions, rear additions over 900 square feet or which add more than 40% square footage to existing above grade square footage, whichever is less, Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) construction, zone-lot amendments, historic window replacement, or demolitions of Denver landmarks or structures in an historic district. If your project is not one of these types, proceed to step 2. To apply for pre-application review, visit the 
Design Guidelines and Application Materials page.

Number 2
Application

All other project types may skip the pre-application review process unless Landmark Preservation staff has indicated that a pre-application review is required.  Submit the appropriate application form found on the Design Guidelines and Application Materials page, and all relevant drawings and photos to Landmark Preservation staff at the Records Desk or via email at landmark@denvergov.org. Landmark Preservation staff will review the submitted application materials in five business days and will contact you if further documentation is required to complete the design review.

Three
Design Review

Landmark staff review applications for completeness and compliance with the design guidelines:

  • 3A - Administrative Review Track:

Proposals of a certain type that clearly meet applicable design standards and guidelines may be subject to administrative review and approval by Landmark Preservation staff. Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions section below for more on projects subject to administrative approval.

  • 3B - Commission/Board Review Track:

Depending upon the complexity, visibility and location of your project, your application may need to be reviewed by the Landmark Preservation Commission or the Lower Downtown Design Review Board. The Landmark Preservation Commission meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month, and has a filing deadline a minimum of four weeks prior to each meeting. The Lower Downtown Design Review Board meets the first Thursday of each month, and has a filing deadline a minimum of three weeks prior to each meeting. Applicants must submit complete applications to Landmark Preservation staff by the submittal deadlines.

Additional materials and submittals may be required for applications reviewed by the commission or board. Applicants are responsible for providing 15 bound copies of the application form and submittal materials at least seven business days before the commission/board meeting. If documentation is not received, the application is removed from the commission/board agenda.

Meeting agendas and information on what to expect at a board and commission meeting is available on the Landmark Preservation Commission and the Lower Downtown Design Review Board pages.  

  • 3C - Approval

Once your application is approved, Landmark Preservation staff will stamp or sign off on construction drawings and issue a Certificate of Appropriateness. If your project was approved with conditions, you must resubmit revised application materials to Landmark Preservation staff showing how the conditions have been met. The certificate and stamped drawings must be obtained before receiving a zoning or building permit if such permits are required for the proposed work.  

Frequently Asked Questions about Design Review

Changes that require Landmark design approval:

If the changes to the exterior of your property require a building or zoning permit, you will need to submit a design review application to Landmark Preservation prior to obtaining a building or zoning permit. Some examples of work requiring Landmark design review include:

  1. Window replacements -- A building permit is required for any window replacement on buildings in locally designated historic districts or on Denver landmarks regardless of whether or not the overall size of the window opening is changing.
  2. Additions to existing buildings, including patios, attic conversions, second story and dormer additions.
  3. Construction or alteration of garages and carports, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and carriage houses
  4. Installation of mechanical equipment including HVAC, solar, venting, swamp coolers, etc.
  5. Construction of detached structures such as gazebos, pergolas, stand alone decks or pool houses, and above- or in-ground swimming pools
  6. Exterior alterations including new exterior doors, egress windows, roof or siding replacement, stucco, skylights, patio or deck covers, and window awnings. 
  7. New building construction 
  8. Construction of fences and retaining walls – A building permit is required for all fences and retaining walls for properties in locally designated historic districts and for Denver landmarks. 
  9. Signage installation
  10. Demolitions – All demolitions require Landmark Preservation review. Public hearings are required for demolition proposals involving any of the following: demolition of any portion of the façade or feature facing a public street other than a public alley, 40% or more of the square footage of the structure’s exterior wall surfaces, 40% or more of the roof structure area measured in plan, or 40% or more of the combined square footage of the structure’s exterior walls and roof structure area. 


Changes that do not require Landmark design approval:

  1. Interior work that does not affect building exteriors (including interior demolition work)
  2. Minor repairs that do not require a building or zoning permit
  3. Painting a house a different color
  4. Repointing masonry
  5. Repairing an existing window (e.g., replacing a broken pane of glass, stripping paint, wood fills, etc.)
  6. Installation or removal of plant material. 
Projects meeting any of the following conditions (as determined by Landmark Preservation staff) must be reviewed by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board:

  1. All additions that add more than 900 sq. ft. or add more than 40% square footage to existing above grade square footage, whichever is less
  2. Projects visible from the right of way
  3. All roof-top additions with visibility from public vantage points, including enclosed and open space
  4. All new construction except for one-story garages that clearly meet design guidelines and are not visible from public vantage points
  5. Changes to visible doors, windows, porches and other historic features
  6. Changes to historic materials
  7. Comprehensive sign plans, projecting shaped signs and other signs that are not subject to administrative review
  8. Demolition of all primary structures, portions of a contributing structure or contributing outbuildings, and
  9. Projects determined by Landmark Preservation staff to not meet the design guidelines.
Yes. Landmark Preservation reviews design changes to all buildings in historic districts, even when they are newer (including “non-contributing”, “non-historic”, or buildings constructed outside the period of significance). The purpose of this review is to ensure that any proposed changes are compatible with the character of other historic buildings and the historic district.

Yes. Landmark Preservation reviews plans for all buildings in a locally designated historic district and on landmark designated properties. The purpose of this review is to ensure that new construction is compatible with adjacent historic buildings and the overall character of the historic district.

When the proposed building is located on a vacant lot or on a developed lot but does not involve demolition of existing buildings:
Please contact Landmark Preservation staff for more information about design review of new infill construction. You will need to complete a pre-application form and submit all materials on the Design Review Infill Guide. Most new construction projects require a two-step review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or Lower Downtown Design Review Board:

  1. Massing, Form and Context Review
  2. Design Detail Review (including all architectural details) 
Small accessory buildings such as Accessory Dwelling Units or garages may entail a combined Massing, Form, Context and Design Detail review.


When the proposed building requires the demolition of existing buildings:  
Landmark Preservation approval of the demolition work will be required before you can submit plans for a new replacement structure on the same site.  For more information on this process, go to demolition review.  

Yes. Design guidelines have been approved by the Landmark Preservation Commission and the Lower Downtown Design Review Board to guide design review and provide applicants reasonable expectations of what is expected. For additional information, go to design guidelines.

The time frame for design review depends on the completeness of the application, the complexity of the project and the extent to which the project meets the design guidelines. Please contact Landmark Preservation staff to obtain a time estimate for the design review of your project.

Please submit all materials required with your application. Incomplete applications delay the design review process.

Landmark Preservation staff will review your project within 5 business days of submission for completeness and to determine whether it will require review by the Landmark Preservation Commission or the Lower Downtown Design Review Board. Administrative approval by Landmark staff typically takes between 5 and 10 business days upon receipt of a complete application for work that clearly meets the design guidelines.

For projects requiring Landmark Preservation Commission review, complete applications, including all required submittal materials must be submitted to Landmark Preservation staff at least four (4) weeks prior to the next available meeting. The commission meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

For projects in the Lower Downtown Historic District requiring Lower Downtown Design Review Board review, complete applications, including all required submittal materials, must be submitted to Landmark Preservation staff at least three (3) weeks prior to the next available meeting. The board meets the 1st Thursday of each month.

Please be aware that some projects may require multiple reviews by the commission or board. For example, an infill project requires a two-step review. See the question “Does Landmark Preservation review plans for new buildings?” for more information.

There is no fee for a design review.


LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The information on this page should not be used as a substitute for codes and regulations. The applicant is responsible for compliance with all code and rule requirements, whether or not described in this page.

Application Materials

View the application materials page to download the guidelines and application/checklists for submitting an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness.

Contact Us

Landmark Preservation Office:
720-865-2709
landmark@denvergov.org

Design Review Projects

Every project is different. Depending on the complexity and specifics of your project, the design review requirements, process and time frame may vary from the information presented on this website and in the application materials. If you have any questions, please contact us.

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