Denver has changed a lot from when I was a kid growing up here. Even just within the past five years since I finished college, the city has grown by leaps and bounds.
This growth is not new to anyone. It has been one of the biggest topics of discussion in recent years among residents and local politicians. Development. Parking. Construction. A seemingly never-ending cycle.
This month, we kick off “Growing Pains” as an ongoing series that looks at how this development is affecting your neighborhoods and everyday life. The initial story looks at overall development and how it has impacted the lives of Denver residents. Going forward, the series will tackle topics such as housing, business and green spaces.
We can, most likely, agree that not all development is bad: Like people evolving over time, a city must grow and change to fit its needs.
I have fond memories of coming downtown from my hometown of Arvada for field trips to the Denver Art Museum or going to Coors Field for Rockies games. My stepdad used to work for the museum, so we would have family dinners at the Denver Diner to close out one of his shifts. I burned my hands many times on the sun-scorched bronze hippo statue across from the hippo enclosure inside the Denver Zoo.
But if I wanted to try sushi as a kid, forget it. Denver was a steak-and-potatoes town. Now, with more people moving into the city, Denver has adapted by adding more restaurants to fit the desires of its growing diverse population. There’s a booming brewery scene. People living in Denver want to support its small businesses.
The unemployment rate in Denver has been steadily going down. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the Denver, Aurora and Broomfield area was 9.3 percent in February 2010. It fell to 6.1 percent in February 2014. By February of 2018 it was down to 3.2 percent. This February it was at 3.1 percent.
Whole new neighborhoods have sprouted. In college, I interned at Out Front magazine in the River North neighborhood before it became RiNo. Driving up Walnut Street, surrounded by industrial buildings, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Five years later, RiNo is the “it” neighborhood with several breweries, two food halls and tons of restaurants.
But how do we manage growth to support people who have been living in this city for generations?
When I was working at the Summit Daily in the mountains, the running joke was that Colorado natives, like myself, did not exist. We were called unicorns. It’s a phrase that carries down the western slope and into the city. So many people have moved to Colorad that meeting a native feels few and far between.
High prices are pushing residents out into the suburbs, moving further and further away from the city. After moving back to Denver from the mountains, I was shocked to find new apartment developments in Arvada were just as expensive as ones in Denver. I frequently get calls from real estate call centers asking if I want to sell my house in Arvada — my dad’s house — which I don’t even own.
People are what make a city great. People run the businesses here. They make up the community centers and teach Denver’s children. Growing Pains will dive deeper into the world of development in Denver. In this series we can get a better picture of the residents who are living through — and dealing with — change every day.
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