Last night, Denver City Council approved the draft plan for development on the campus, where some 800 residential units could be built. More than 40 people spoke for and against the plan, and there were a lot of questions. (The only “no” vote came from City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca; Councilman Chris Herndon was not there to vote.)
Those who spoke against the plan have reservations about more traffic, taller buildings, and that many of the historic buildings will not be preserved. And more: running through this lengthy public hearing, the fact that people living in the surrounding neighborhoods would be pushed out because of escalating home prices and rents.
It’s a complicated thing, combining culture, history, money, and the fact that Denver has been blasted by growing over-development. Even the most saintly developer now will face some blowback because of the actions of developers who have ignored a neighborhood’s wishes and concerns.
The Westside Development Partners, which purchased the campus last year for about $16 million, has appeared attentive. The principal working on this project, Mark Witkiewicz, has attended numerous meetings to hear opinions; about 450 people showed up for four community meetings.
One of those meetings was set up for the nearby large Hispanic community, but despite sending out postcards from kids’ schools to take home and passing out flyers, only about 35 or 40 attended. The response to this was sharp and pointed. And when council asked Xochitl Gaytan, president of the Harvey Park Community Organization, why so few people attended that meeting, the response was quite strong: “Do you want me to do the process for CPD (Community Planning and Development)?”
She and others noted that a flyer was not personal, and that people wanted to learn from those organizing these meetings – not just a piece of paper. “We elected you to hold developers accountable to those you represent,” Gaytan said, as noted.
I hope for the best. I hope Westside and the developer-builders chosen to build homes (Westside is more attuned to commercial buildings), do remember the people who live in the neighborhood and remember that there are beautiful and historic buildings ripe for preservation. Some have already been selected, and there are easements in place in some places.
Denver will change, but it doesn’t need to be any more ugly than it is already. And after watching the entire proceedings, I can say that many people in Denver need to learn what the word “inclusive” really means.
Below are links to stories in Denverite, The Denver Post (new and an advance from two weeks ago), and Colorado Politics.