Five Things That Make Five Points Residents Really, Really Mad

Five Points is one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, so it makes sense that it has a long and winding history, one whose high points include the area's time as the “Harlem of the West,” when it was a must-stop for African-American entertainers — and the only place in Denver where they could stay. Perhaps less remembered are the populations of Jewish citizens, later to be followed by Japanese-Americans and Mexican-Americans, who called Five Points home. All of these changes created a rich stew of a neighborhood over the years in terms of diversity and heritage.

Of course, all that diversity doesn’t help when the financial bottom falls out of a neighborhood, as it did in Five Points in the 1960s and '70s. Only in the past decade has the neighborhood begun to reinvigorate itself, with pricy duplexes wedged in by Victorian homes, and even today, Five Points has a reputation that scares some residents of Denver. Example: When we recently moved to Curtis Park, my children were warned to beware of “anyone wearing Nuggets jerseys, and people with canes.” That’s the sort of casual racism (and inexplicable stupidity, since that advice would suggest that you’d really have to beware of elderly basketball fans who’ve had recent hip surgeries) that infuriates people of all generations who call Five Points home. And so do these other five burrs under the collective Five Points saddle.

5. The term “gentrification”
Gentrification is the thing that really gets most people in almost any Denver inner-city neighborhood fired up these days, judging from the Facebook comments on these neighborhood articles. "Gentrification" is used as a pejorative most of the time, but it’s ill-defined in common usage. For some — mainly the people who hate it — gentrification means a radical change in population within a neighborhood to which they have some emotional tie, and the related exclusion of the original population. And, yeah, when the traditional population of an area is displaced, there’s always some loss. But with that — with some care and attention — can come certain good. In Five Points, there’s a lot of respect for the history, and many newcomers (myself included) actually moved there because of the diversity, not to change it. Yes, the socioeconomic average of the neighborhood is changing, but that can be for the better, too. Safer streets, more stores opening and, yes, property values rising. The thing about gentrification, like most capitalism, is that when it runs rampant, it’s terrifying; with attention paid to the human costs of said capitalism, it can be ethical, and the results majestic. But in the time of transition? Just the word "gentrification" is likely to raise hackles.

4. Going out for supplies
Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. There just aren’t enough places to get your necessities in Five Points. There’s one nearby grocery store (thank you, Safeway), but there needs to be more. The Ballpark King Soopers helps a little, but it’s still something of a drive, and a small store, to boot. And the other types of stores — hardware, especially, since the True Value on Welton became a church over a decade ago — are completely lacking. Most of this has to do with the demise of the mom-and-pop establishments that served the area (and well) back in the day, and were pushed out in part because of the decline of Five Points. And that’s what needs to return to the revitalized area: small stores. No one wants a Home Depot or a Walmart moving in and razing a city block of beautiful old houses to do it.