Dear Denver: Ten Conversations From 2015 About the Ever-Changing Mile High City

The tower crane, an inescapable sight in Denver.
The tower crane, an inescapable sight in Denver.
Flickr/eioua.

All through this year, it felt like 2015 had a lot of changes in store for Denver — some good, some not so good. Just a few weeks ago, Andre's Confiserie Suisse announced it was closing at the end of December, meaning one more cherished institution is going the way of big development. We also lost Le Central, Paris on the Platte, Roach Photos, Elitch Lanes and Rosa Linda's, to name just a few now-deceased establishments that had been Denver favorites for decades. On the brighter side, Denver Diner rose from the ashes and The Wizard's Chest found a new castle on Broadway to call its own. And after lingering on Broadway purgatory for the last few years, the First Avenue Hotel and the Webber Theater (better known by its late-in-life occupant, Kitty's South) are set to rise again in future Denver. 

For better or for worse, Denver's changing face is a seemingly never-ending topic of discussion. As a person born and raised in this city who cares about it very much, I've had mixed emotions about what I am seeing and feeling happen here. Reflecting on 2015, I've compiled a list of ten conversations I hope Denver continues to have as we grow, with a Breeality link in which I tackled that topic.

The now-developed gardens section of Country Club Gardens before it became a construction zone.
The now-developed gardens section of Country Club Gardens before it became a construction zone.
countryclubtowers.com

10) Can historic structures and new builds coexist in Denver? 
"What is Denver's Future Without Buildings From Its Past?"

"What do we keep and what do we save?" is a challenge that any growing city in America has inevitably faced (often many times over). Though I make no attempt at hiding where I stand when it comes to how Denver is growing, this is a conversation that should continue: Denverites should have a stake and say in what happens to their built environment. (A trip I took to Las Vegas this past summer really had me wondering if Denver was doing things right.)

9) Does your state pride extend to civic duty?
"Colorado Pride: Is It Anything More Than A T-Shirt?"
 
Colorado pride has always been a big thing here. (Maybe it is in every state?) But recently, with the influx of new people moving here after finding out how great it is to live in this state, there has been a visual rise in "Colorado pride." T-shirts, hats, socks, steering-wheel covers, pipes, coffee mugs, shirts for your dog, hats for your dog, etc. screaming with the state flag, the state license plate, pot leaves, and so on can be bought at every gas station and grocery store. What I want to know is: If you love Colorado so much, do you vote? Are you engaged in what happens here? 

8) We have a lot of amazing parks. Period.
"Denver's Parks: The Last Fortresses of Undeveloped Land for All to Enjoy"

It's hard to find an area of town that isn't a construction zone — except at our parks. Denver's parks system is one of the biggest and best in the country; as the city grows, so does the importance of these open spaces in dense areas. And unlike so much of Denver in 2015, parks are free and open to all. 

Casa Bonita: welcome to paradise.
Casa Bonita: welcome to paradise.
Bree Davies.

7) If you haven't been to Casa Bonita, no better time than now for a visit.
 "It's Official: Casa Bonita is Now A Historic Landmark"

Though technically in Lakewood, Casa Bonita is part of Denver's modern lore. This is basically just another one of my biannual plugs to get you off of your computer and into the state's most famous faux-Mexican village in a strip mall. While you're at it, take a visit to Lakeside, Denver's other adopted landmark packed with kitsch and beautiful architecture.

6) Seriously, Denver. Stop reading and sharing posts from imfromdenver.com.
"Stop Sharing From Websites That Steal My Work"

Writers, reporters, photographers and general archivists and news-breakers depend on real websites, newspapers and television stations to pay us for the work we do covering Denver. As in any city, it takes a keen eye to catch what's really going on here, and then you have to use all your knowledge and skills to report on it. As thanks, you should not have your work stolen — even inadvertently. When you post or share articles taken from us that are then regurgitated through plagiarizing machines like the I'm From Denver website and Facebook page, you're doing no one any favors. Please stop and look before you link.

True Northsider Bobby LeFebre.
True Northsider Bobby LeFebre.
Courtesy of the artist.

5) Learning the effects of Denver's growth through the people who live it every day.
"Bobby LeFebre's Northside Takes A Tough Look At Denver's Changing Cityscape"

Denver's Northside neighborhood has seen one of the most pronounced socioeconomic and cultural shifts of any area of town in the last decade. Northsider, poet, activist and writer Bobby LeFebre got down to business exploring these changes in his first endeavor as a playwright with Northside. I was able to ask him a few questions about the origins of his work and how he sees his own role in his changing hometown.

4) Denver is being bought and sold by people who don't know the real us.
"In Denver What Does 'Luxury" Really Mean?"

If there's anything more irritating to me than the rash of new development all over this city, it's the way that development is being marketed. Everywhere I look I see "luxury" living spaces popping up in the same neighborhoods where my friends and family can no longer afford to live. It feels like a case of false advertising, which is a disservice to everyone — rich or not — who makes Denver their home.

3) How can we help each other?
"Denver: Here's How You Can Help People Living Without Homes Right Now"

No question, we have an affordable housing crisis in Denver. But for those of us who have enough to survive, what can we do to help others? One of the things that makes Denver great is the ability for people of all economic backgrounds to thrive here. The only thing I regret not including on the list of suggestions I made last month is the idea that offering anyone the dignity of a "hello" or a smile, regardless of their perceived economic situation, will go a long way.

The interior of Glob, one of Brighton Boulevard's artistic hot spots.
The interior of Glob, one of Brighton Boulevard's artistic hot spots.
Matthew Novak

2) What is Denver without its artists?
"DIY Venues Inevitably Close — But Is Denver Too Pricy For New Ones to Open?"

Brighton Boulevard as I knew it just eighteen months ago is almost gone. I have many mixed feelings about this part of the city's growth, as it has long been a place for artists and working-class folks to function relatively freely and affordably. But things on the strip are changing so quickly, it makes me worried for the future of Denver's disappearing affordable pockets of living and work space and with it, the art and music communities. The area known as RiNo has been "examined by the city" and "reimagined" by TEDx and re-sold to us as a place where art "could be" when, in reality, art has been happening in this industrial wasteland all along.

1) Can we stop Denver's ugly, overpriced makeover?  
"What's Developing In Denver Isn't Pretty"

It's everywhere you look: big, bland development pushing up against property lines on blocks from West Wash Park to Sunnyside. Very expensive, very modern, very new-new boxes to live/work/socialize in are the new norm in Denver's building boom. In exchange for these monstrosities, the Mile High City is losing many older structures. The damage can't be undone, but can it be stopped before we lose every angle of the city because a four-story condo is now blocking our modest, midcentury modern patio view?

Here's to Denver being less ugly in 2016.

Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies

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