Auraria neighborhood "doomed," predicted 1975 campus impact study

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About three years ago, while rooting through a pile of junk destined for the trash at a local thrift store, app developer Bryan Brodie came across a briefcase stuffed with papers that had evidently been salvaged from an abandoned storage locker. Brodie paid a buck for the case and its contents, which included some architectural photos and drawings from Denver in the 1970s -- and a battered three-ring binder containing a lengthy study, "The Environmental Impact of the Auraria Higher Education Center on the Near West Side of Denver, Colorado."

The study has four authors, was done under the auspices of Dan Schler and John Prosser -- two University of Colorado at Denver professors of the time -- and may have been a graduate thesis project of some kind. It's not what we would call today an environmental impact study, but it does present detailed statistical analyses and projections of how the Auraria campus, still under construction at the time, was expected to impact the Lincoln Park neighborhood south of Colfax -- and explores options of what could be done to soften the blow.

"The history of the Auraria area is fascinating, and really provides a window into a long-lost part of Denver's history and society," says Brodie, who wants to see the document turned over to a library special collection or archive. "The people there had little political power and the urban renewal bulldozer ran roughshod over their little community."

Indeed. The study is very much an artifact of its time, fretting over the political tensions and community divisions that had been exacerbated by the decision to obliterate a largely Hispanic neighborhood north of Colfax to build a new home for Metropolitan State College, the Community College of Denver and UCD. Many of the displaced residents moved into Lincoln Park -- which had its own worries about how the campus would affect parking, rents and the stability of the area.

The study's authors begin by pointing out that, six years after the redevelopment process got underway, there was still no Lincoln Park representative on the Auraria Higher Education Center board: "If this lack of concern is an indication of how AHEC will relate to the community, it represents a pure fraud on the taxpayers."

Continue for more about the Auraria neighborhood circa 1975, including a study excerpt.
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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast