Historic farm could be cultural and economic ‘neighborhood gem’

Westminster works to restore Shoenberg Farm into an art and cultural district

Posted

A drive on Sheridan Boulevard in Westminster can easily turn into a trip down memory lane.

Turn west onto 73rd Avenue, but stop short of the Starbucks and T-Mobile in the shopping center and just before the new Shoenberg Greens housing development. You’ll see a barn and silo reminiscent of when farmhouses and cattle dominated the then-countryside landscape that is now a popular suburb of Denver complete with a commuter rail to downtown.

“The farm is a great example of Jefferson County dairy farms at the turn of the century,” said Chris Gray, economic development officer for the city of Westminster. “It’s part of the city’s heritage — a relatively famous resident started the farm.”

The city purchased the Shoenberg Farm property in May 2009. Since then, the city has been working to preserve the key structures of the former Shoenberg farm and turn them into cultural, historical and economic drivers to fit the community’s current landscape.

The once 800-acre dairy farm was built in 1912 and donated to Denver’s National Jewish Hospital, according to the city’s website. Louis D. Shoenberg, a Colorado philanthropist, had the farm built for the hospital. The hospital sold the farm in 1921 to Jacob Tepper after it became to costly to operate.

Tepper grew the farm into the largest egg distributor west of the Mississippi River for a short time, according to a historical narrative from the city. Tepper’s farm was also the headquarters for Dolly Madison Ice Cream stores, which were found throughout the Denver area for 60 years until 2001. The farm ceased operations in 2000.

“Obviously, this area had an agricultural heritage,” Gray said, “and this is definitely part of it.”

Renovations of structures underway

Herding business into the buildings hasn’t been easy.

The city purchased the property because it was part of a larger parcel on which the owners wanted to build a shopping center that involved demolishing most or all of the historic structures, which a city narrative says include a “distinctive” elliptical Quonset structure, wood and concrete silos and a bungalow residence.

So when the city took possession of the two parcels, it established a vision of making it an economic and cultural “neighborhood gem,” as the city’s website says, “a place where neighbors can enjoy art, history, a farmers’ market, a small concert or film festival.”

John Hall, economic development director for Westminster, said those types of activities are not outside the realm of possibility, but the city also is trying to court businesses that would draw customers.

The city owns the lot on the southwest corner of 73rd Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard where the farmhouse sits and the lot across the road immediately to the west on 73rd Avenue where the silo, barn and milk-and-ice house are located.

“We have been very slowly working with the state historic fund … to renovate buildings,” Hall said.

The city pitched in $835,523 and received $14,489 in local grants and a little more than $1 million in state historic grants for renovations.

The approximately 5,000-square-foot dairy barn and concrete silo have been renovated.

“It’s a large, open space,” Hall said about the barn. “It’s a space in which we’d like to have uses that draw the public in.”

The city is in talks with two developers for potential use of the space, but Hall said said for now future tenants are speculative.

“If you’re going to do historic preservation, you want the public to be able to access it,” Hall said. “So we would look to uses that activate pedestrian traffic. That could be anything from restaurants to retail.”

The 1,100-square-foot milk-and-ice house is currently being renovated and the approximately 2,000-square-foot farmhouse will be renovated next, with no specific timeline.

‘Bumpy’ road to attracting businesses

The area around the property has developed throughout the years and continues to grow. Walmart is a block away, senior citizen housing is being built by Jefferson County Housing Authority to the west and, across the street from the barn, houses are sprouting up like crops in the spring in the Shoenberg Greens subdivision.

But the historic structures remain vacant.

“It’s been bumpy,” Hall said about securing tenants.

Gray and Hall cited the complexity of the project as the reason.

Because they are historic structures being partially funded by the state historic fund, the renovations have been restrictive.

“We had people come by and kick the tires,” Hall said. “But with older buildings like this that have some deterioration, it’s hard for some people to look past that and see how the building is ultimately going to be converted into a usable form.”

With that interest, the city put out a request for proposal for tenants, but no one bit.

“It’s about that thick,” Hall said about the requirements, holding his thumb and index finger about 2 inches apart. “And the reason it’s that thick is not because of city contracts, but because when you use state historic fund grants, what comes with them is a whole lot of strings and restrictions.”

Those who are interested have business development experience and interest in preserving the history, Hall said. But he could not divulge more about the prospects because of ongoing negotiations.

Still, Hall and Gray remain optimistic.

“We believe that historic preservation is important to maintaining community identity and cultural identity,” Hall said, “and maintaining authenticity.”

Westminster Colorado, Shoenberg Greens housing development,

Comments

Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.