Ah, Cap Hill. For some, this neighborhood is the heart of the city. For others, it's that part of town you live in by choice in your twenties, and then escape when your stage of life shifts and work doesn’t start at 5 p.m. Full of office and government buildings, halfway houses, historic homes and mansions, apartment complexes both classic and brand-spanking-new — and still not enough living space for the people who want to live there — Denver’s Capitol Hill is one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city.
And it has been for a long time — ever since before the turn of the last century, when the bigwigs of the growing city moved out of the Curtis Park area and into the ritzy new Cap Hill developments. The place boomed, and really never stopped booming. Sure, there’s crime. Sure, it’s crowded. Sure, it can be loud. But it’s the city, and residents love it. Still, there are certain things that get the boxers of residents in a twist — including these five.
5. The Colfax turnover
There was a time, not so long ago, when people avoided Colfax Avenue if they could help it. So not surprisingly, it became something of a badge of honor to live near the place and patronize its many favorite haunts. Still is, even though so much of what made the Cap Hill area of Colfax gritty and perfect has passed into history over the last decade, or been so “improved” that the awesome origins are lost. The Nob Hill Inn is still there, but it doesn’t even have its old jukebox anymore. Jerry’s Record Exchange shut down, and so did the poster place and the comic-book store that used to sit next door. The rough and ready Roslyn turned into the poised and slick Prohibition. The delicious breakfasts at Walnut Cafe gave way to delicious burritos at Emilio’s Superchef, which itself was replaced by a new upscale ramen-and-sushi place, which may also be delicious, but those Yelp dollar signs just keep multiplying. The slow Disneyfication of Colfax, once easily Denver’s most interesting stretch, has some residents even missing the days when the street seemed to be paved with substances you sidestepped and pretended not to notice.
4. Street parking
Speaking of streets — oh, lordy, does parking in Cap Hill suck. Sure, some areas have residential parking limited to homeowners in the area, but try to have even a small dinner party when you only have one parking pass to give to your visitors. And if you’re not lucky enough to live in a residential parking zone, every day becomes a game of “find a spot.” A friend of mine who lives in Cap Hill watches four drivers who regularly park on his block, then walk to the 16th Street Shuttle — because they don't want to pay for downtown parking, making his street essentially a tiny park-and-ride. And forget it if there’s a festival in Civic Center Park. Even when you do find a spot, you’d better hope that your side mirrors fold in, because otherwise, it’s only a matter of time until you come out to a very bad surprise one morning — and I don’t mean a hobo sleeping in the bed of your truck. Though you might want to expect that, too.
It’s a fact of life in Cap Hill: You’re going to get tagged. Especially if you’re lucky enough to have a garage, but anything will do: a fence, a wall, your house, even your car. A guy I knew who lived on Washington Street left his dog tied up in his front yard on a sunny afternoon and came back out to see that someone had tagged the dog. The dog: A big, friendly, fuzzy white sheepdog that suddenly had a neon blue triangle—or maybe it was the letter D?—on his left side. (My friend ended up getting him groomed, because he didn’t know how paint remover interacted with sheepdog.) The point is this: Understanding that people will mess with your stuff is just part of life in Cap Hill, and you either embrace it or suffer until it drives you out.
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2. Rent going up
The majority of Cap Hill residents are renters, which means that when rental prices on the rise —stratospheric rise, at that — it hits Cap Hill where it counts. Granted, if you’re a landlord, this is all good news. But if you’re a tenant, it’s pretty rough. And it’s not just the cost and the availability of apartments; demand also lessens the pressure on landlords to actually keep up or improve their properties. The insane ease with which even the least of apartments rents for astronomical prices means there’s no real incentive to replace that carpet or paint those walls or (perish the thought) upgrade those kitchens and baths. So a lot of renters are stuck where they are — probably paying higher prices each time they renew their leases —because there’s just nothing else out there. And on those rare occasions when there is an apartment available? It’s take-it-or-leave-it time. Rising costs and diminishing value are not good for the soul.
1. Landlords cashing out
Of course, there are other scary possibilities for renters in Cap Hill — like your apartment full-on disappearing. A significant number of apartments in Capitol Hill are actually subdivided old mansions. And with more money pouring into Denver real estate and fewer historic single-family homes available, it’s becoming more common to reunite those revamped spaces and bring together into one home what used to be two, three, even four or more smaller, individually rentable spaces. If this seems basically unfair to you — essentially reducing a living space from being able to house four separate residences down to one— then just imagine what it was like to rent a beautiful old upper-floor apartment for years, only to be told that you have sixty days to find a new place. What’s the 21st-century Mary Tyler Moore to do? Probably move to the suburbs.