Frisco saves historic cabin in exchange for zoning waivers for condo project
Bob Deming, born in Frisco in 1907, was only a teenager when he shot his eye out trying to fix an old rifle he found at the Giberson Ranch.
A trip up Fremont Pass in the dead of winter saved his life, and despite the missing eye, he went on to be one of the best marksmen in town.
Bob died in 1963, but his story typifies the Demings, a hardscrabble bunch that came to Frisco in the 1890s and later became known for setting off big boxes of explosives every 4th of July at 4 a.m.
A bit of their history, however, might have been wiped from the town were it not for a zoning deal struck with a developer that will preserve one of the small Deming family cabins on the corner of 5th Avenue and the Galena Street alley.
The project won town council approval last month. It was the first time the town had used a historic overlay district, where developers earn zoning waivers in exchange for preserving old buildings.
Members of the town staff say it provides a model for how a town with almost nonexistent rules for historical preservation might hang on to some its oldest and quirkiest buildings.
“I do think this process worked the way it was intended to,” community development director Joyce Allgaier said. “These decisions can become hard because there are trade-offs involved … but the outcome was that we were able to save this historic building.”
The project, called Deming Crossing, will consist of four townhouse units in two separate buildings. The town exempted developer Jamie Haass from a requirement that he reserve the fourth unit for workforce housing and also approved waivers for the building’s mass and setbacks.
In exchange, Haass will move the cabin with a crane to a more prominent spot on the lot and fix it up according to U.S. Department of Interior preservation standards. It will be incorporated into the final development and feature a plaque commemorating its history.
“The cabin was just sitting there for years and years on this cold, dark space, but now it’s going to be revitalized,” Allgaier said. “If the building went away, we would’ve lost its stories.”
That has been the fate of many of Frisco’s old buildings over the years, as the town’s hands-off approach to preservation runs up against scarce land and the need to build.
Like any property owner in town, Haass had the right to scrap the old cabin, built around 1936 with old telephone poles. That contrasts with preservation policies of other mountain towns, including Breckenridge, where certain historic buildings are protected.
“Frisco did not adopt mandatory preservation requirements like some communities did,” Allgaier said. “So what we’ve done instead is provide the carrot instead of the stick” through zoning incentives.
The trade-offs that requires can be tricky. Councilwoman Deborah Shaner, for one, was not convinced that the arrangement was worth waiving a workforce-housing unit. She was the lone ‘no’ vote against the re-zoning last month.
If perhaps an imperfect deal, the re-zoning is a promising proof-of-concept for future developments, including a proposed hotel adjacent to the Foote’s Rest property on Main Street, Allgaier said.
Owner Kelly Foote has acquired the historic Staley House next door, and plans on incorporating it into a hotel development. Once his design drafts are complete, he will go through the same historic overlay negotiations with the town.
“Frisco doesn’t have a long history of historical preservation as part of its development ethos,” Allgaier said. “But I think people are starting to talk about it more and worry about community character, and historic preservation plays a role in that. Frisco has a lot of old, funky buildings, and people want to save them.”
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