Commentary

Five Things That Make Five Points Residents Really, Really Mad

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3. The closure of Tom’s Home Cooking
The recent closure of this beloved Southern comfort-food fixture of Five Points has become something of a watershed moment in the rejuvenation of the area. Sure, Tom’s was only there for sixteen years (if indeed the word “only” belongs in a sentence like that), but Tom’s had been taken into the hearts of many in the area as one of its own. It was a stalwart in a planned renaissance of the area back in the late 1990s that never really developed. But Tom’s hung in there, attracting patrons to the neighborhood when they wouldn’t otherwise have come, serving gut-pleasing fare for years. Who knows? Maybe Tom’s also served as an anchor for the redevelopment that’s now finally under way in Five Points, and closed only because that gap between the old and the upcoming had finally, once and for all, been bridged. Might be overly positive thinking, but you gotta find a way to look on the bright side after one of the best lunch places in Denver closes up shop.

2. Alley poopers
As the book says: Everyone poops. Even the homeless who congregate in a few areas in and around Five Points. After all, they can’t use the half-doored stalls in the Blair-Caldwell Public Library after it closes, can they? So they do their best, and squat next to a dumpster in what they hope will be a quiet alley for the next few minutes. It’s understandable, but for those residents who use those dumpsters, it’s not a pleasant surprise. Not long after we moved into our new place, we noticed that there was someone who’d been using our dumpster as a toilet for some time — our house had sat vacant for a while — but as soon as he (or she!) realized the house was lived in again, the pooper must have moved on. We were grateful: A friend of mine who lived in the neighborhood back in the '90s had the same problem, but badly placed (the pooping spot was right by his driver’s-side door where he parked in the alley), and disturbingly regular (every night for over eight weeks steady). As he put it, it was annoying and gross, but an impressive amount of fiber for a street person. He finally solved the issue the way many people in the neighborhood have: security cameras. Because even though everyone does it, it’s not a moment most of us want captured on film.

1. Losing its history
And in this neighborhood, there’s a lot to lose. As one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, pre-dating even Capitol Hill (which actually replaced the Curtis Park section of Five Points back in the early twentieth century as “the place to be” for the wealthy and powerful), Five Points has hosted a rich tapestry of eras and populations. So it makes sense that such a thing should be respected and preserved. Some of this is taken on by neighborhood groups like the Curtis Park Historical Society; other things are preserved by responsible entrepreneurs and developers, like the one renovating the property at Welton and 28th Street and restoring the ghost sign left by the old Yuye Café. But all this positive news tends to be viewed with a healthy dose of suspicion by longtime Five Points residents, who have seen this cycle run through many times over the past few decades, and each time the promises are made, the plans are set into motion, and then…nothing happens. Or very little happens — not enough, certainly, to revitalize the area in a manner that keeps with the area’s traditions. While it might be true that to everything there is a season, it’s also true that rebirth is hollow if the past life isn’t taken into account. And even if there are some positive signs, the true nature of the resurrection of Five Points is far from determined at this point.


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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen