You don’t have to wander far to see and feel the growing pains as our city continues to grapple with the challenges and opportunities that come with the pace of growth we are experiencing. I am the …
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You don’t have to wander far to see and feel the growing pains as our city continues to grapple with the challenges and opportunities that come with the pace of growth we are experiencing. I am the youngest member of the Denver City Council, but even at my age there are times where I have to squint to see Denver as the same city that I grew up in.
These growing pains cut across so many different issues, but may be nowhere more evident than in the changes happening each and every day with the land use in and around our neighborhoods. Whether it is two 30-plus story towers off of Downing, a seven story apartment at Logan and Mississippi, the old duplex down the street, a favorite shop on Old South Pearl Street, the quiet church on the block, or the single family home that is being torn down to build something that feels completely different, it is hard to not feel the impact of 40 new people moving to Denver each and every day.
With almost all of these projects, City Council never has an opportunity to review or to vote on them. Most of the time, the zoning that is currently in place, and often has been for decades, allows the development that is happening to occur with no further review or approval from City Council. These property rights have sat unused for years, but our current pace of growth is bringing them to the forefront.
Churches, and especially churches that are embedded in neighborhoods on residential streets, also present a growing challenge. Most of them are currently zoned for single family homes. This allows struggling congregations to sell their property and allows the new owner to tear down the church, parking lot, and community garden and build homes in their place. With the opening of the International Church of Cannabis this spring, we saw that even when the church building is preserved, a change in ownership brings a lot of change to a block.
I certainly am not suggesting that all change is bad. Change can be great, change is inevitable and change is necessary. Housing prices in Denver are through the roof, and without change, kids growing up in Denver today will find it nearly impossible to afford to live in the city where they grew up. Change can also bring more restaurants, shops, amenities and the opportunity for more efficient and higher frequency transit with it.
There are also certainly places where new and denser development are carefully planned for. The land immediately around the Broadway and Alameda light rail stations, including the former Gates property, has an adopted vision for that change. Where I hear the most frustration from constituents is in the places where they did not expect the change or know what was already allowed by the current zoning.
Some neighborhoods have seen what is possible and realized that it was not in line with their vision for the future of their community. Residents in Baker worked to form a historic district to protect what they felt was too valuable to lose, and residents of West Wash Park and Platt Park worked to rezone large parts of their neighborhoods to preserve the single family home character when homes started being torn down to build duplexes. Citizens from around the district worked hard to create an exciting vision for change at the former Gates site through the now adopted Broadway Station Area Plan.
The future of Denver, the future of our neighborhoods and our ability to protect the things we can’t possibly imagine losing, while making room for the growth that we are experiencing, is in your hands. The first step is getting to know what is already allowed on your block, where you shop, where you work and where you play. You can start by searching any address in Denver on this map: denvergov.org/maps/map/zoning. The second step is to talk to your neighbors. If that church across the street went up for sale, what would you want it to be? What would the current zoning allow it to be? If you had to make room for the 40 people who are moving to Denver today, where would you build housing for them? What would that housing look like? Then share your thoughts at denverright.org. Add your voice to the four citywide plans that are happening right now. Finally, shoot me an email (email@example.com). Let’s grab coffee and talk about your vision and how I can help.
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