Since Brad Evans started Denver FUGLY three years ago this past April 1 (no joke), he has collected close to 7,400 members for the Facebook group, created the Ditch the Ditch campaign, moved from Denver's Jefferson Park to Jefferson County, brought new wheelers and dealers into the Denver Cruiser Ride that he founded a decade ago, discovered through his birth father that he's related to Wyatt Earp, and started a brand-new Facebook group, called I Love You Denver.
While FUGLY is basically a shootout at the not-okay housing corral, cataloguing one monstrous new project after another, I Love You Denver could be considered a love letter to the Mile High City. "Now I'm going to get picked on for going soft," Evans says.
And in fact, when Brad Buchanan, head of Denver's planning department and a frequent FUGLY target, saw the new page, he wondered exactly that. "What, are you going soft on me?" he messaged Evans.
Not a chance. Evans launched Denver FUGLY with this manifesto: "Let’s get after it at the core of what needs to be exposed and work to stop the stupid, the lazy and the pathetic execution of bad ideas." He still has problems with hideous architecture, the down-and-dirty plans for Interstate 70's underground expansion and the stupid roadblocks to making this city truly bike-friendly. But he also thinks highlighting what's right about Denver will only emphasize what's gone wrong.
"With Ditch the Ditch and Denver FUGLY, we were trying to be a vision center, to have a conversation," he says. "I Love You Denver gets to the core of what makes Denver great, the opposite of how Denver FUGLY works."
And Denver FUGLY has definitely worked...to a point. "I still have a backlog of 1,500 people wanting to join it," Evans notes, then admits, "and they're still building fugly."
The fugliest of all? Some eighteen-unit slot homes in Jefferson Park (above), right around the corner from where Evans once lived, that replaced a Victorian home a developer had flipped and flipped again, despite neighborhood protests. But while Evans is going to continue to spotlight such outrages on Denver FUGLY, now he's also going to celebrate the city. As he announced in a FUGLY posting on June 6:
"For all you Denver Haters, we're launching the I LOVE YOU DENVER group... While Denver FUGLY is here to lampoon the bad stuff, I LOVE YOU DENVER is here to celebrate all the good stuff. Join the group today, and start sharing all the things that YOU LOVE ABOUT DENVER!"
People have been quick to start spilling, answering the question posed on one of I Love You Denver's first posts, "I love Denver because..."
Because of the weather, City Park Jazz, Bar Bar, El Taco de Mexico, the Denver Botanic Gardens, chiles roasting on Federal Boulevard, the Denver Skate Park, the Gio Ponti-designed North Building at the Denver Art Museum, Bastien's, sunsets over Coors Field, and "random art everywhere downtown," early adopters suggested.
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"Count me among those who love the Big Blue Bear and Blucifer!," another poster wrote, citing the devil horse people love to hate. "I also love the big chair with the horse standing on it outside the main branch of the DPL. Denver is chockablock with enormous public art!"
In just a week, Evans has seen nearly a thousand people sign up for I Love You Denver, a title he took from an old Denver Dry Goods slogan (he had the T-shirt when he was seven or eight). "I'm glad people are engaging in it," he says. "It's a celebration of the past, but people are also talking about how we look to the future. What kind of city does Denver want to be next? There are so many new people, there's so much new energy...how do we harness it?"
In the end, he says, "it's another way to look at Denver. It needs coddling as much as it does criticism."
So, has Evans gone soft? You can't make a Denver omelet without breaking a few eggs.