A Development Grows in Jefferson Park

Soon enough, there will be a new landmark on the bluff overlooking Interstate 25 just south of Speer Boulevard: Pinnacle Station, a multi-unit apartment complex planned by developer A.G. Spanos.

The project, located in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, will certainly be nicer than the site’s current occupants, the vacant Baby Doe’s and Chili Pepper restaurants, but that’s never been good enough for the local neighborhood group, Jefferson Park United Neighbors (JPUN). Believing the large-scale, suburban-style project would be incongruous with their diverse, urban neighborhood, JPUN has been opposing the Pinnacle Station proposal for the past 20 months, a battle you can read about here, here and here.

Despite the nieghbors’ concerns, Denver City Council voted last night -- with one abstention and only Jeanne Robb opposing -- to rezone the area in question so A.G. Spanos could move forward with Pinnacle Station. In other words, JPUN lost.

“I supported [the rezoning] after a great deal of consternation and difficult thinking, and came to the conclusion that it is the right zoning for that location. If it wasn’t for the neighborhood folks who worked as long as they did in trying to get more out of the developer, I probably would not have supported it,” says Councilman Rick Garcia, who represents Jefferson Park. As for why he didn’t vote the same way as his Jefferson Park constituents, who three times voted overwhelmingly against Pinnacle Station at JPUN meetings, Garcia added, “That was a factor, but at the same time they were voting against it, they were continuing to work with Spanos. From time to time we have to evaluate how important those kinds of messages are as they relate to our perspective.”

“It’s not the vote that we wanted,” says JPUN co-president Erin Ansell about City Council's decision. “But, you know, life’s tough.”

Life’s especially tough when you’re up against one of the biggest developers in the nation, a corporation that hired as consultants Denver Planning Board member Bruce O’Donnell as well as the Kenney Group, the lobbying team behind Mayor John Hickenlooper’s re-election campaign.

But such squabbles are in the past, says Ansell: “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves for too long. The neighborhood is looking forward to moving on. There’s still a lot to do around here.”

In that spirit, JPUN will be hosting a neighborhood happy hour this Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Araujo’s restaurant, West 26th Avenue and Eliot Street. Everyone’s invited, and not just those who live in Jefferson Park.

Though, to be safe, those associated with A.G. Spanos and Pinnacle Station may want to stay away. – Joel Warner

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner