Main Street, USA

Mark Manger

"Rise, rise, shake your hips and move your thighs. You wanna see, you wanna see, see the Bolts come alive. Do it!"

Two decades after graduating from Manual High School, Anna Jones still remembers her alma mater's pep cheer. "I was such a white girl, but going to Manual taught me about shaking my booty," she says. "We were really hip."

Now she's one hip mama. She and her husband, Asanga Abeywickrema, moved to 1428 St. Paul Street because they want to live -- and raise a family -- right off East Colfax Avenue, the strip that Playboy called the "longest, wickedest street in America." Their boys, six-year-old Max and four-year-old Calum, eventually will attend East High School and sing the praises of the Angels.

Jones took a very circuitous route to get here. She was born in Melrose, Scotland, but moved with her family to Denver when she was six and her father, a psychiatrist, became the head of Fort Logan. "I basically grew up right around here," she says. "I remember Colfax from my childhood; now my boys will, too."

"I hate Colfax," Max, a first-grader at Teller Elementary School, stubbornly tells his mother.

"He does not," she whispers.

There's not much to hate about the 1400 block of St. Paul tonight. As on most summer evenings, the neighbors are mingling on each other's porches, sipping wine and watching their gaggle of children play. They're a very tight-knit group, with a block e-mail list that includes 90 percent of the homes, and a Yahoo Group site where they post stories and photos. "It all started with Anna and Asanga being the epicenter," says Jen Garner, a neighbor enjoying a Bud Light on Jones's porch. "My husband, Dave, and I still remember the night she banged on our door after we moved to the block in 2000. It was the middle of winter, and this woman we'd seen but never really talked to came over and said, 'Come over, please. We're stuck inside with our kids and we need adult interaction. We can't take it anymore.' So we came over, and a couple other neighbors came by, and it's just sort of grown."

"It's really because of the kids," Jones says. "We have kids that want to be outside, so you get to know people."

Right now, Calum and Max are eyeing the ice cream truck parked in front of their house with a mixture of longing and caution. After a woman sideswiped the joymobile, its driver asked Jeffrey, another boy who lives on the block, to be a witness. Jeffrey has convinced Max and Calum that being a witness means the police can come and take you away. "They have big sticks and they spank you with them," Calum explains to Garner.

"They do not, Calum," Garner responds. "Who told you that? They're nice to good little boys like you."

Calum flashes her a devilish grin and takes off.

Jones started out at the University of Colorado but transferred to Western State -- better known as Wasted State -- in Gunnison to complete her degree in history. Her free spirit then led her to Alaska, where she worked at a fish-processing plant. "After college, we were talking to a recruitment agency, and they asked, 'Do you want to go to the Aleutian Islands?' I said, 'Sure,' and went and bought a bathing suit. Needless to say, I didn't use it."

"So did you buy a parka to move to Sri Lanka?" Garner asks, goading her friend.

"No, I knew it was tropical there."

But before Jones would make it to Sri Lanka, she did six months in Alaska and then moved to Seattle, where she had a "regular job" in the U.S. Attorney's Office and a boyfriend who sailed boats for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. When she realized he was having all the adventures, traveling the world, she joined the Peace Corps to teach English.

"I wanted to go to Eastern Europe," she remembers. "My second choice was Costa Rica. They called and offered Sri Lanka, and I said, 'Sure.'"

"That's how she got roped into this Colfax stuff, too," Garner says, jumping the timeline again. "Just saying 'Sure.'"

Jones shoots her a look.

"When you first join the Peace Corps, they test you in these ways that you'd rather just be run over by a truck or have your eyes poked out by sticks," she says. "They are just so intense in preparing you. But even then I was surprised. Here we are sort of exposed to Latino culture, but not to Buddhist-civil-war-middle-of-the-Indian-Ocean-wipe-your-butt-with-your-hand kind of culture.

"It was an amazing place. It's a small island, it's Buddhist, it's Tamil, it's Muslim, it's Christian, it's full of bugs and full of snakes and full of elephants, and it's full of all this stuff that was so unfamiliar to me," she continues. "It was actually really hard for me to adjust. Being on the buses and getting your crotch grabbed, your boobs grabbed all the time. As a blond white woman, I totally stuck out. It was such a huge amount to get used to. And as a Peace Corps person, you live like a local. They don't give you very much money, and all your other Western friends are primarily attached to the embassy or working for AT&T and living this entirely different reality. They were not there bathing by the well."  

Despite the struggles, she made it through her two-year commitment, though it definitely helped that she found Abeywickrema -- "a total hottie" -- within a few days of arriving.

"Oh, I love this story," Garner says.

"I met Asanga on the train," Jones explains. "I knew my train left at 11:08, and at 11:08, the train arrived and I got on. I was asking all of these people if this is the right train -- in Sinhalese -- until some guy figures out it's not and tells me you have to get out at the next station or you're going to the other side of the country, where, by the way, there is a war being fought. And there is only one guy sitting at the next stop, one very cute guy."

He bought her an orange Fanta, gave her his first-class ticket -- taking her third-class -- and it was love. Two years later, when it was time for her to come back to the States, he followed.

"Hi, Jeff," Garner and Jones yell to their newest neighbor as he runs past the house. "He's training for the New York Marathon and the Colfax Marathon," Jones explains. The Colfax Business Improvement District floated the idea of the marathon -- Colfax Avenue is exactly 26 miles long, almost the length of a traditional marathon -- last year and has finally garnered all the buy-in to make it happen on May 21, 2006.

Jones's tale has taken another tangent -- but that's always the story on Colfax. Everyone has a side note or related anecdote or bizarre connection to someone else. Brad Segal, Jones's boss at Progressive Urban Management Associates, a downtown-revitalization firm, took her sister to the prom. Garner did youth theater with the daughter of Bob Aronowitz, the developer of Chamberlain Heights, the mixed-use complex at Colfax and Steele Street. Jones bought her first bike at Collins' Bicycles on that same block, and now her kids buy inner tubes from Tito, the shop's third-generation owner. And those are just the casual connections made by two women sitting on this porch. The links between the people currently involved with the revitalization of Colfax are endless. If there's a Denver family tree, Colfax is the trunk.

Certainly it's the center of this family's life. When Jones and Abeywickrema got to Denver in 1995, they bought a house at Tenth Avenue and Adams Street, and Jones got a job at Coors Field. "I wasn't even the beer lady," she says. "I was a VIP rep, so I got to sit in the front row and make sure people didn't smoke or swear."

"You were the buzzkill," Garner says.

"I was the buzzkill," she accepts, and laughs. "But I learned a lot about baseball, which, by the way, isn't nearly as boring as one might think."

Her new neighborhood was, however.

"The house was close to here, but it still had a real suburban feel," Jones says. "Asanga had been in the country for less than a year, and he used to stand out in the front yard just looking forŠsomething. He was like, where are all the people? It's nice and sleepy there, which is very appealing, but not to him."

In 1999, when Max was one and Jones was pregnant with Calum, the family moved just off Colfax.

"Asanga, even before we moved here, he got to know everybody on the street all the way down to Broadway," Jones remembers. "He knew all the little shops. He knew who would have a used compass or some abstract little thing. It was so attractive to him as someone who hails from a developing country. We could spend the day just walking in and out of shops, and it was so fun because he was so well-connected to the underbelly of Colfax and what was going on. He sort of reacquainted me with a neighborhood I had grown up in, but through his eyes."  

Not everyone saw it that way. And even Jones admits that when they first moved in, she wouldn't have let her boys play in the front yard because of the hookers and crack dealers who walked their street. "It was occasional, but there was a realistic fear, especially for the kids," Jones says. "Realistically, we had some guy sleeping in our back yard for months, and it was freakish. But still, when we moved here and Brad [Segal] said, 'That's a great block, but it's too close to Colfax,' I said, 'Coming from you, my friend, that's terrible. You should get this.'

"Then I read something in some planning magazine that said having kids in a commercial district is like having a canary in the coal mine, and it speaks to the vibrancy and the life and possibilities of the area," she continues. "And it did. It felt so natural as these businesses have opened, like ArmAzem making these guys" -- she gestures at Max and Calum -- "some Brazilian concoction. It just felt so nice to have them so connected to some of these businesses. It's this sense of connectiveness that Asanga brought me to. And honestly, as much as we're complaining about the drugs and prostitution, that grittiness is part of the draw and the persona of Colfax."

The strip of Colfax that runs from Steele to Cook streets, affectionately known as the Bluebird district, has changed a lot since Jones and her family arrived. Back then, the Chamberlain Heights development was a dirt lot used for cheap blow jobs and a fast hit. Although Goodfriends and the Goosetown Tavern were serving, Mezcal, the Atomic Cowboy and Cafe Star were still years away. A-Ability Sew & Vac, the Bluebird Theater and Collins' Bicycles were already there, as was 7-Eleven, but ArmAzem had yet to serve a cup of joe, Hairspray had yet to snip a bang, and ism gallery's owner, Craig Thomas, had barely moved to Denver.

Today's bustling strip was just a glimmer of hope in the parade of grit and grime along Colfax that people have loved and hated since the '50s, when Denver's zoning code was written and planners began pushing pedestrians off the streets to make way for the post-war boom in automobiles. The construction of I-70 took the tourists away, too, leaving businesses without customers and starting the area's spiral down from gracious, historic homes and neighborhood businesses into a barren sea of drive-thrus, empty parking lots and vacant buildings. The lifeline through the city was slowly dying, a victim of exhaust fumes and neglect.

"In the last two years it's changed, but in the last six months it's changed a lot," Jones says. "When we first moved here, I would go up to 12th Avenue for coffee and food. I didn't even think about Colfax. But the Bluebird was always here, so that always made me feel secure that something good was happening and interesting people were nearby."

Colfax is about ready to get even more interesting.

For the past three years, Anna Jones has been consumed by Colfax -- eating, sleeping and drinking it. She made the mistake of attending one neighborhood meeting, and that decision snowballed into her becoming the co-chair, along with Colfax Business Improvement District (C-BID) executive director Dave Walstrom, of a group of citizens, business owners and city officials intent on revitalizing Colfax.

In 2002, the Denver City Council approved "Blueprint Denver," which laid out a vision for the city's future, covering everything from transportation options to creating stable neighborhoods versus "areas of change." That plan called for more narrowly defined looks at specific areas or corridors, with input from neighbors about how they envisioned their communities. When Jeanne Robb was elected to the city council in 2003, she and Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth stepped up to spearhead the process for East Colfax Avenue, since their districts both touch the beloved blocks.

"I'm a Denver native. I was born in northeast Denver, and I represent the district I grew up in, so I have really fond memories of Colfax," says Wedgeworth, whose father had a store in a building on Colfax that's now Robb's council office. "I grew up in a really poor family; we lived in the Curtis Park projects until the early 1960s, and Colfax was fascinating to me, because my parents would drive us up and down. I've always been very proud of it. So I thought when Jeanne got elected, it was a great opportunity and the right timing. She's the yin to my yang. We're good cop, bad cop. Being an east-side girl, I love challenges."

And challenging it would be. Back in 1996, Walstrom and Paradise Cleaners owner Buzz Geller had started an effort to rezone the forty blocks of Colfax between Broadway and Colorado, an area classified B-4, a live-and-let-live designation that allows Kitty's and pawnshops but excludes parks, fire stations, brewpubs and artist studios.  

"We'd realized the existing B-4 zoning was part of our major problem in revitalizing Colfax," Walstrom says. "So when the new Golden Triangle zoning plan came along, which was prepared by the planning department, we thought, 'Hey we can adapt most of this because it has applications to Colfax because of the density.' There was also a contingent at Colfax on the Hill [now C-BID] that really thought that the problem with B-4 was the anything-goes uses, and that's where it became problematic."

Four years and hundreds of meetings later, their efforts imploded when the city's planning office suddenly came out in opposition. But even before that, the debate had gotten vicious: Jim Hannifin, owner of Ready Temporary Services, who opposed the new zoning plan, sued Margot Hartmann, then owner of the Holiday Chalet bed and breakfast, for allegedly slandering him at a public meeting. (The judge later threw out the suit.) Hannifin also sent temporary workers to picket the Chalet as well as the businesses of other plan proponents, including Geller's Paradise Cleaners.

So in 2003, when the 2.5-mile stretch of Colfax between Grant Street and Colorado Boulevard became the first corridor in the city to go under the Blueprint Denver microscope, nobody was sure what Pandora's box the process might open, since many of the same players -- including Hannifin and Geller -- would be at the table. "We had to get the trust back again, and that was hard," Wedgeworth says. "We had to get all of the stakeholders back at the table and at least agreeing to disagree. I told them, 'What y'all have in common is y'all love Colfax. Y'all believe in Colfax. So let's go from there."

Even Jones was hesitant when Robb approached her about co-chairing the stakeholders' committee. "I took a couple of days to think about it because I knew the group, bless their little hearts," Jones says. "And it has been a lot of different people with a lot of diverse interests, and there has been a lot of representing personal interests without seeing the greater good, in my opinion."

While there was a general consensus on what people wanted Colfax to look like, how to get there was contentious. "There had been so many failed attempts to get something going on Colfax, but this time everybody had the exact same vision of what the street could be," says Katherine Cornwell, the senior city planner who shepherded the process. "But the M.O. to achieve that vision couldn't have been more different. And that was such a group effort. The plan grew out of people coming back and staying at the table and working through the conflicts that had happened over the years. It was almost like group therapy, really. And I think from those conversations a clearer picture emerged."

By early 2004, all that blood, sweat, tears, cursing and a fair amount of name-calling had turned into the East Colfax Corridor Plan. The document is 204 pages -- that's 81.6 pages per mile of wickedness -- filled with optimistic looks at the future:

The street is as diverse as its inhabitants. There is a rhythm and a pulse to the activity generated by an integrated land-use and transportation system that sustains the nearby neighborhoods, encourages walking, biking and transit use, enlivens the activity on the street and captures the attention of commuters and visitors.

Each node or walkable stretch of the corridor expresses a unique identity defined by diverse businesses, scale and character of adjacent residential neighborhoods and high quality urban design attributes.

No matter the location, a visitor experiences a unique sense of place with a definable character and charm.

With visitors at night, local residents, workers and commuters during the day, Colfax is a 24-hour marketplace.

Colfax nourishes the human capital of its residents. The area welcomes and embraces neighborhood diversity that encompasses a wide variety of ages, lifestyles, economic circumstances, ethnic groups and family types.

Colfax exemplifies the best of what a city can offer: a vibrant, hip, progressive urban avenue.

Those are lofty goals for a street, and while the plan doesn't include concrete recommendations on how to implement them, having the document at all was half the battle. After the Denver City Council approved the East Colfax Corridor Plan in June 2004, the next half of the battle began: coming up with zoning recommendations. "Take two, and we're all back in the same room," says Jones.  

"This time wasn't even near the same," says Hannifin, a mayoral appointee to CBID. "Last time, I got ticked off when some of the businesses tried to do some social engineering and get rid of poor people and services for poor people. One lady didn't want nail salons because she thought they were areas where people dealt dope. This time there is no social engineering; it's strictly on development. There's a big component included for low-income housing, which we desperately need in this city, particularly along transportation corridors. It's a whole different feel, it's more helping everyone -- well, I guess there's not something in it helping rich people.

"But it's a much more generous zoning," he continues. "When I was made chair of the C-BID zoning committee, I made a committee of my old enemies and old allies and said, 'Look, let's put our differences behind us and march ahead for the good of Colfax and the good of the city.'"

Instead of tinkering with the existing B-4, this time the stakeholders decided to write an entirely new code that they called Main Street Zoning, which would create the main-street feel that people were asking for. Under this plan, rather than limiting uses -- as the earlier attempt had tried to do -- all of the businesses currently allowed in B-4 would be permitted (except pawnshops), and a few more would be added, such as artist studios and brewpubs. To do this, they looked to a new concept in city planning: form-based zoning, in which more controls are placed on how developments look and how builders use the land.

"Conventional zoning was all about separating uses," Cornwell says. "You live over here. You work over here. You play over here. With form-based zoning, you bring all of that together and mix it up. That happens in B-4, but it's complicated and doesn't necessarily get the desired look. Right now we have a code that relies on really complex text and calculations to figure out what development you want. Form-based is illustrative; it shows you instead of telling you what kind of development to do. It's about the quality of the buildings and how they work in their environment. The B-4 has this thing called floor-area-ratio to limit the amount of development you could do, but it doesn't have any development standards to tell you what you want it to look like."

Jones's neighborhood is a model for what Colfax would look like under Main Street Zoning. To create it, neighbors and businesses agreed that they want existing buildings grandfathered in so that the requirements only pertain to new development; want new construction to come up to the sidewalk with parking in the rear, so there isn't a tiny building at the back of the lot with a sea of cars in front; want 75 percent of a building to face Colfax and have its entrances on the street; want the buildings to be at least 60 percent glass on the first floor to create the feel of neighborhood shops; want a building's bulk pushed up toward Colfax and height maximums so that the building doesn't encroach on the neighborhoods behind; want mixed-use development with businesses on the ground floor and homes above the shops; and want low-income housing, not just multimillion-dollar condos. These are all typical elements of the historic Main Street, USA. Think South Broadway. Think downtown Golden. Think Old Towne Arvada. Think Old South Pearl.

"There was definitely a shared vision," Jones says. "A genuine desire to make Colfax something we all could enjoy and feel like we're a part of, and really thread our neighborhoods together and expand that sense of pedestrian sensibility. The other unifying factor was a real sense of guarding Colfax from gentrification. Everybody got that. It's such an important spine of Denver in so many ways. I think of Broadway in Seattle, and it had all these funky stores and bars, and then it all went away, and it was kind of like, shit, because that's what made it so cool."

Main Street Zoning won't kill what's made Colfax cool -- at least not immediately. The proposal goes to the Denver City Council on September 12, and if council approves it, the Main Street Zoning code will be placed on the books simply as an option that developers can use to guide future projects anywhere in the city. For Colfax itself, Denver officials, the businesses and the neighbors will begin what's called a "mapping amendment" process, looking at each lot from Grant to Colorado to determine if it should be rezoned under Main Street. If so, any new building erected on the site would have to adhere to those standards, while current buildings and uses would be grandfathered in. So the 7-Eleven and Wendy's could stay, as could Argonaut.  

"We have not produced something akin to brain surgery," Cornwell says. "It's real simple. We've said we want people to live on this street. We want people to work and live and play on the street. We're building a place for people, not for cars. That is what the current zoning has done. It has just corroded Colfax. Colfax looks like a big piece of Swiss cheese. There are these big holes of parking, and there's nothing happening there except garbage. It's a place where a lot of criminal activity happens. I guess you can romanticize that as gritty, but I think of gritty as a porn shop or tattoo parlor, something that is a little less mainstream but is still an active use. You may not like the people using it, or you may be scared of them, but it's a use, there's money being exchanged, services rendered. It's active; it's not just a dead spot.

"We have all of these places along Colfax that are just dead," she adds. "They could be used for housing, for the types of shops and services people need to meet their daily needs. I mean, I guess with tattoo parlors and porn shops, you could be meeting someone's daily needs. There is no way the market will sustain all cutesy restaurants or porn shops. People need a whole menu of shops, and we're trying to create a place that allows that to happen naturally."

All main streets are not created equal, however. Main Street Zoning calls for three districts that encourage different types of development based on the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods. The Bluebird district would potentially be MS1, with developments between one and three stories, because the commercial lots are very small and the surrounding South City Park and Congress Park neighborhoods are old, stable and well-developed. The area between Downing and York streets is being considered for MS2, with mixed-use structures that can be more than three stories since this stretch is already dense and can continue to absorb an influx of residents. And the area from Grant to Downing would be MS3 because of its proximity to the transportation options of Civic Center and the density of downtown.

Of the three, only the Bluebird district is still contentious, pitting neighbor against neighbor, newcomers against old-timers. While everyone now agrees on 90 percent of Main Street Zoning, the last 10 percent involves what every Denverite is willing to fight for: parking. "We want Colfax to develop; that's why we're so excited," says Tom Rutter, who has lived in South City Park for sixteen years. "But parking pressures are very intense, as you can imagine. And what they are asking for is faith-based zoning."

The proposed plan would cut back the amount of parking that new businesses would have to provide and calls the city's 1967 parking code the "zoning equivalent of the Death Star" because of its negative effects on Colfax. Cornwell is fond of quoting preservationist James Marston Fitch, who said this 45 years ago: "The automobile has not merely taken over the street. It has dissolved the living tissue of the city. Its appetite for space is absolutely insatiable: moving and parked, it devours urban land, leaving the buildings as mere islands of habitable space in a sea of dangerous and ugly traffic."

Exhibit A: the Office Depot at Colfax and Pearl Street.

"The problem is that there's not enough economy of scale allowed in B-4 to make below-grade parking economically feasible, and what happens is that you end up coming back to lowest-common-denominator developments," says Brad Buchanan, an architect who's a member of the Denver Planning Board. "That's what happened to Colfax. It's all NAPAs, Arby's, 7-Elevens. Those building types are just corrosive to the context of what has historically made Colfax great, which was its pedestrian environment. It doesn't create a place where people want to be."

To encourage main-street-style development, the new zoning would reduce the amount of parking required for a business from about 1 space per 200 square feet of lot to 1 space per 500 to 1,250 square feet of lot, depending on the size of the property. It also would exempt some of the small lots that characterize the area -- such as Cafe Star or Goosetown Tavern -- from having to provide off-street parking, since it's almost impossible to have both a business and parking on those lots. Under old rules, Goosetown or Cafe Star would have to provide at least thirty parking spaces on-site or within 500 feet of the front door.

"On a 6,250-square-foot parcel, you only have room to do the floorplate, so you don't have room to put in parking unless you go back and tear down a house," Cornwell says. "We don't want that to happen. We can do this revitalizing without tearing up the neighborhood. So we exempted the parking requirements on the small lots."  

"The East Colfax Plan kept talking about mom-and-pop, small-scale walk-up business," Rutter counters. "My concern is that by lowering these parking requirements, this will be the only place in the whole city where a restaurant or a nightclub could buy a 6,250-square-foot lot and provide no parking. That's a huge incentive. I'm a realtor, too, and I know how the investment mind works. I don't think that good and reasonable and development always goes in hand. I think the zoning could still require the form, along with higher parking requirements for restaurants, since they can provide it within 1,500 feet of their business. That will slow down the number of bars and restaurants coming in."

Bars and restaurants lie at the crux of the conflict. The neighborhood groups adjacent to the Bluebird district have a long history of fighting off potential newcomers -- partly because of concerns over liquor, mostly because of concerns over parking. Local concert promoters NIPP struggled mightily when they wanted to convert the Bluebird from a porn theater to a music venue, and Cafe Star is just the latest restaurant to get a nasty tongue-lashing over customers parking in the surrounding blocks. Newcomers tend to be more understanding of the crunch, while longtime residents are more possessive of their street parking. While both sides agree that they want a vibrant Colfax, they differ on just how much they want to share it with outsiders.

There's no question that parking is at a premium in the Bluebird district these days. But rather than raise proposed parking requirements, the East Colfax group is working on ideas like a parking-management district, which could create such things as shared parking garages that businesses -- even ones without parking requirements -- could buy into to create spaces for their customers.

"The market is going to drive demand," Cornwell says. "For business owners to survive, they are going to want parking for their patrons. They're already doing it here. Mezcal rents from Buzz Geller at Paradise Cleaners; Goodfriends rents space at the hotel for its employees. The market is working. Over the years, as zoning has gotten more complex, people have looked at zoning to be the be-all and end-all of community development. But if there are concerns about there being too many restaurants or bars -- places that may have high parking needs -- then you have to address that in the appropriate places, like where you get liquor licenses. It's important that we find the real solutions, not the Band-Aid."

But Rutter and Kathleen Hynes, president of Congress Park Neighbors, don't believe any real solutions have been offered. "There's a lot of discussion about parking districts, but I have no idea, nor does anybody else, what that's going to look like, how it's going to be funded, when it's going to be in place," says Hynes, who has lived on the south side of Congress Park for 35 years. "My concern is that projects will begin without a plan to address parking. They're just asking us to take all of this on faith."

"I just think folks are going to have to agree to disagree on the parking issue, which is why were looking at a parking district," Wedgeworth says. "We think that's a viable option to deal with their issues. Folks need to remember, public parking is public. Even though some of the neighbors are upset about people parking in their neighborhood, it's public parking."

Walstrom and Greg Holle, head of the commission that advises the city on parking, believe that all the holes in a proposed parking management district can be filled before the new zoning is actually implemented -- in about a year, if the city council passes the plan.

"Most cities are starting to appreciate that parking is a part of that puzzle instead of this separate thing that sits out there on its own," Holle says. "It's a good tool for us to manage our transit solutions. The more ubiquitous we make free parking, the more we facilitate people's ability to use the single-occupant vehicle. If that's the long-term strategy that you think leads to a successful city and community, then you need to facilitate that by making parking king and satiate parking demand at the expense of all else. That's the effect of the B4 zoning we've been living with.

"Usually with parking, we just talk about increasing the inventory, and in a lot of cases that may be a solution," he continues. "But in some cases, the solution may be better utilizing the current inventory. If you take Cherry Creek North, which has a perceived parking problem, if you look beyond the on-street stuff and look at the off-street stuff, there is a lot of off-street parking, but it's owned by private folks. And someone who is parking rich doesn't know the guy who is parking poor, and they can't make a deal because there is no mechanism for that communication. Parking management can facilitate that and consummate the transaction. Denver is just on the cusp of appreciating that, and change feels good for some folks, and it doesn't feel good for other folks."  

For Quin Wright, who has lived in Congress Park for ten years, change feels just fine. He's excited about the new zoning and what it could mean for his neighborhood. He has just one request: "Why doesn't everyone just clean the crap out of their garages and park in them? You can't bitch about not being able to park in front of your house when you choose not to use your garage."

Two weeks ago, Jones had to walk a block from her car to her front door. It was only the second time she'd had to do that since moving to St. Paul Street. She has a garage, but it's filled with stuff. "Calum was fast asleep, and I had a car full of groceries and a whiny Max, and I thought, 'This sucks.' But give me a couple of days a week like that and the development happening, and I'll take the tradeoff," she says. "Any one of us would rather have a hard time finding parking than being able to park anywhere we want and having drug dealers and hookers populating the neighborhood. We cannot control every variable. We have to have faith in the urban organism that is developing. We are at a critical juncture, and if this gets held up or squashed, it's nothing short of a tragedy for Denver.

"But then again, I'm not a South City Park resident," she continues. "I get their gripe. It's completely legit. They are landlocked, there is no management system in place, and, yes, they're being overrun, but that's not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think maybe if it were easier to cross Colfax, the issue would be lessened. There are five blocks between crosswalks, yet there are 20,000 people in Congress Park with a huge amount of disposable income who want to get across the street to spend their money. Colfax needs to be a zipper connecting our neighborhoods, not a barrier."

Until recently, Jones and the boys regularly crossed to the north side of the street to visit their father, who owned Red Door Resale at St. Paul and Colfax. And although Abeywickrema recently closed the shop -- he just didn't have time for it, since he also owns a moving company, is a contractor, and exports paint and computers to Sri Lanka -- the family still regularly goes to ArmAzem for treats. Good thing Jones went to Manual: Learning to move her booty was good training for getting across Colfax.

"Rise, rise, shake your hips and move your thighs. You wanna see, you wanna see, see Colfax come alive. Do it!"

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