A contract approving the sale of the Englewood Depot to Tom and Patti Parson was approved 4-2 on first reading at the Aug. 5 city council meeting.
The second and final reading is set to be on the council’s Aug. 19 agenda.
The Parsons, who live in Denver, propose restoring the outside of the historic building and creating a living letterpress museum inside.
The contract passed on first reading with Mayor Randy Penn, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Woodward and Councilmembers Jill Wilson and Bob McCaslin voting in support of the sale. Councilmembers Rick Gillit and Joe Jefferson voted against the proposal, while Councilmember Linda Olson wasn’t at the meeting because she was out of town.
Gillit was the most outspoken opponent of the sale.
“I have no issue with the Parsons and they put together a great presentation,” he said during the discussion of the sales contract. “However, I have always maintained that I would not vote to sell city land and that is one reason I am voting no tonight.”
He said the second reason for his no vote is that the depot site was identified as a park on the 2006 Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the city charter prohibits selling park land without voter approval.
“I would recommend we delay action on the contract and put the issue on the November ballot. If the majority of Englewood resident approve selling the depot, I’ll vote for it,” he said. “Also, I understand that there are residents planning to challenge the sale in court because of identification of the site as a park in a document approved by the 2006 city council.”
The wording of the ordinance stated city staff could find no record of the depot site being dedicated for park purposes. Also, the ordinance stated the 2006 master plan anticipated the transfer of the property to others for more economically productive uses.
Jefferson said he would also vote against the proposed sale.
“I don’t agree with selling the land. I prefer it would be a long-term lease,” he said during the discussion. “While I do believe the Parsons will do a good job, I will vote against the sale of the depot.”
Reportedly, the contract calls for selling the depot and about four-tenths of an acre of land to the Parsons for $30,000. The sale would be for about 40 percent of the city-owned land in the 600 block of West Dartmouth Avenue. The remainder of the property is occupied by the city’s community garden.
The proposed contract also requires the new owners to secure a preservation easement within 180 days of the sale. A preservation or conservation easement is a way to ensure the continued preservation of historic buildings, sites, structures and even archaeological ruins. The donation of such easements allows property owners to preserve these important landmarks while being able to realize what may amount to substantial tax savings as a result of the donation. The easement is permanent and remains in force even if the depot is ever sold to a third party.
The contract also guarantees the city the right to match any third-party offer to buy the depot if the Parsons put it up for sale.
Englewood’s depot was built in the early 1900s and sat along the railroad tracks near what is now the intersection of Hampden Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. It served the city and surrounding communities but, as rail freight and passenger travel declined in the 1950s, it was closed.
Residents rallied to save the depot when it was scheduled for demolition by the developer of what is now the Sports Authority site. Eventually the building was moved to its present location at Dartmouth Avenue and Galapago Street that was then owned by the Englewood Housing Authority. The authority granted use of the land and provided funds to move the depot to the site.
There was an initial effort to restore the building and make it a community museum, but that failed. The city paid off the debt to the housing authority and took possession of the land and the building. The depot sat untended for decades.
Earlier this year, the council made the decision to seek a buyer and sent out a request for proposal to restore the building and put it to use.
Three proposals were received but one was withdrawn.
The Englewood Historic Preservation Society submitted a proposal to turn the depot into a museum. The group planned to submit application for grants to restore the depot and start museum operations.
The Parsons’ proposal would undertake historic restoration of the depot and turn the inside into a letterpress operation and museum using their resources. They also would seek historic restoration grants to help pay for restoration of the depot.
A selection panel of three professionals with expertise in historical preservation and financing of historic structure preservation and two Englewood residents was named to review the proposals. The panel unanimously recommended the city accept the Parsons proposal.