Denver looks to 2020 and beyond

Recovering from a recession and unprecedented growth marks the past decade

Christy Steadman
Posted 1/7/20

Capitol Hill is the type of community that charms its visitors, and a community that its residents are proud to call home. “We get to live in the kind of place we’d want to visit,” said Frank …

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Denver looks to 2020 and beyond

Recovering from a recession and unprecedented growth marks the past decade


Capitol Hill is the type of community that charms its visitors, and a community that its residents are proud to call home.

“We get to live in the kind of place we’d want to visit,” said Frank Locantore, executive director of the Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District. “That identity is one of the things that people love about Colfax.”

The greater Capitol Hill community has a thriving business scene and vibrant neighborhoods. It’s for those reasons, and more, that Capitol Hill — and Denver as a whole — has seen unprecedented growth in the past decade.

This extraordinary growth had both positive and negative impacts. But heading into the next decade and beyond, Denver will adapt to change.

Empowering neighborhoods

According to George Mayl, president of the Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, it is today’s younger generations who, in the present or near future, will be purchasing homes, sending children to local schools, enjoying the community’s parks, needing transportation options and patronizing businesses.

“What (Denver INC) is trying to do now is (create) the building blocks for the future,” Mayl said. Denver “is not only our city, it’s theirs. It is their future.”

The U.S. Census Bureau states that Denver’s population grew 19.5% between the spring of 2010 and summer of 2018. On April 1, 2010, there were 599,815 people living in Denver. That number rose to 716,492 by July 1, 2018, according to the Census Bureau’s data.

“Denver is a great city to be in and a great place to live,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “You don’t see 100,000 new neighbors move to the city if you’re not doing something right.”

However, that boom of population growth did not come without growing pains, Hancock added.

“What’s important is how you respond,” Hancock said, “and the investments you make in mobility, affordability and equity.”

While such issues such are not new, they are coming to the forefront at a faster pace than ever before, said Christine O’Connor, who co-chairs Denver INC’s Zoning and Planning Committee with Ean Tafoya.

And it’s important that neighborhoods have a voice, especially concerning ongoing issues such as housing affordability, redevelopment and transportation, O’Connor said.

It was only about 45 years ago when neighborhoods did not have a seat at the table, Mayl said, meaning they did not have an outlet to weigh in on important community decisions.

To help bridge the gap between policy-makers and neighborhoods, Denver INC — a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization — formed in 1975. Today, it is the umbrella organization for more than 90 of Denver’s Registered Neighborhood Organizations, representing at least 220,000 households and 400,000 residents.

According to its mission statement, “INC believes that individual neighborhoods are stronger when they work together and learn from one another.”

“Neighborhoods tend to have a local focus,” O’Connor said. Denver INC “strives to go beyond that and unite the neighborhoods.”

As the next decade approaches, Denver INC plans on continuing its focus of empowering neighborhoods, and will also proactively pursue attracting more young and diverse people to get involved with Denver INC, O’Connor said.

Recovering from the recession

When Hancock assumed office in 2011, the main focus was getting “Denver’s economy going again after the Great Recession,” he said.

“Once we did that,” Hancock said, “we had to turn our attention to the issues facing highly desirable and successful cities.”

Denver experienced unprecedented growth, and that exacerbated the challenges that come with it, Hancock said. In the past decade, his office has focused on promoting housing affordability, implementing a transportation and mobility network that is “urban and people-focused” and ensuring development “wasn’t displacing families and whole communities,” Hancock said.

“While growth will continue to happen, it shouldn’t take away from what makes Denver the city we all want to live in,” Hancock said. “That sense of what Denver is to our residents is important to maintain.”

Questioning city’s direction

There are pros and cons that come with growth and development, said Michael Henry, secretary for Neighbors for Greater Capitol Hill and chair of the organization’s Historic Preservation Committee. And it is important for people to consider whether Denver is being overdeveloped and whether it has been too lenient on density, Henry said.

For example, Henry said, some people are unhappy with the recommendations for increased zoning density proposed in the East Central Area Plan, which includes Uptown, Capitol Hill, City Park, City Park West, Cheesman Park and Congress Park.

Another issue important to residents is historic preservation, Henry said.

“Everybody who lives in Capitol Hill cherishes the wonderful architecture and history,” he said. “It’s the reason many of us want to live here.”

In the upcoming decade, Neighbors for Greater Capitol Hill hopes to organize a group responsible for applying for historic district designations, Henry said. And it will continue to keep an eye on buildings that are threatened with demolition, he added.

Shaping community for the future

The sense of neighborliness is important to have when dealing with ongoing community issues, said Travis Leiker, president of Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods.

“Fundamental to who we are as humans is living among others and working collectively to move a community forward,” Leiker said. CHUN will be “thoughtful participants in shaping and creating the community for the next decade and beyond.”

A lot was accomplished in the past decade, and there is a lot to look forward to in the next, Leiker said. He predicts that the future includes attracting new, innovative job opportunities to the city’s current growing and thriving small business population; moving toward more multimodal transportation options, walkability and better public transit; and enhanced parks and open space.

CHUN recognizes these values, Leiker said, and will take action on matters that will improve the quality of life throughout the greater Capitol Hill community.

It’s about “moving the city forward in a joyful, positive direction,” Leiker said.


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