By Miranda Ericksen
City Councilwoman Amanda P. Sandoval, along with Becca Dierschow, principal planner for Denver Landmark Preservation, held a community meeting recently to discuss the details of their collaborative proposal to assign a historical designation to La Raza Park, located at 1501 W. 38th Ave.
Denver’s Preservation Ordinance, originally enacted in 1967, “helps preserve, enhance and encourage the use of structures and areas of the city with historical, architectural, cultural, and/or geographical significance.”
As of this year, there are 357 distinct landmarks in Denver with historical designations. Proposals for historical designations may be initiated by the owner of the property, the Community Planning an Development department executive director, City Council members or a minimum of three Denver residents as a group.
The proposal for La Raza park originated from Sandoval and her office as she said she understands the importance of the park to her constituency.
Sandoval and Dierschow are hopeful that the designation will illuminate how the site was used by past generations as well as instill a sense of pride and cultural understanding both now and into the future.
The park is historically and culturally significant to the Denver community as its kiosko is considered “a sacred ceremonial space for the Chicano community with ongoing significance,” Dierschow said.
Proving the cultural significance of a landmark has become one of the newly added criteria for evaluation of landmarks upon which proposals of historical designation are considered. The requirements for historical designation include structural integrity, 30 years or more in age or of exceptional importance, and the meeting of at least three out of 10 additional criteria.
The additional criteria are associated with the historical or cultural significance, distinct architectural style or well-known architects, innovative or artistic craftsmanship, and familiar or distinctive characteristics of the structure.
Recently, three criteria were added to the list, including: The property must be representative of an era of culture or heritage that allows an understanding of how the site was used by past generations; be a physical attribute of a neighborhood, community, or the city that is a source of pride or cultural understanding; and be associated with social movements, institutions, or patterns of growth or change that contributed significantly to the culture of the neighborhood, community, city, state or nation.
The intent of the La Raza proposal is to “honor the Chicano, Latinx and indigenous residents of Denver, who may not be named but still contributed to Denver as it is today,” said Dierschow. This collaborative proposal was the culmination of over two years of conversations with hundreds of members of the community surrounding La Raza Park.
These living histories included stories of racial injustice and sorrow told alongside tales of celebration of culture, generational solidarity, and overcoming political and social challenges from the past 100 or so years. The stories have been missing from the narrative of Denver’s history, and the intent of the proposal is to introduce them back into the ongoing conversation, according to the proponents.
If the proposal is approved, it will allow for applications for grant funding from the State Historical Fund, which is funded by gambling revenue from mountain communities and would provide money for maintenance and restoration. The proposal is in a final draft state and is expected to be introduced in a City Council committee meeting in the near future.