Eight years ago, after a $300,000 renovation job that installed low-maintenance plants, easily hosed-off pavement and benches where you could sit, not sleep, the city dedicated Edward J. "Eddie" Maestas Park at the corner of Broadway, Lawrence and Larimer streets, renaming Triangle Park after a longtime businessman and neighborhood Good Samaritan who'd always helped the homeless. But the park soon devolved into such a mess that the family asked that the Maestas name come off.
The spot got a new, unofficial nickname: the Bumuda Triangle. And right now, it looks like a major black hole for the city.
The park had become a haven for drug dealers preying on the homeless, who would congregate there during the day, waiting for the three shelters in the area to open. And after eighteen months of discussing what should be done, a group of stakeholders working with the city finally agreed to turn it into a fenced-off urban garden. Last November 1, shortly after a major sting by the Denver Police Department rousted a drug ring that had been operating in the park, the barricades went up, blocking the homeless -- and everyone else -- from Triangle Park, with a banner proclaiming, "The park is closed for now, but we're planting a brand-new Denver Urban Garden community and a fresh start for Triangle Park. Sprouting in Spring 2014!"
But six months later, the project has yet to get under way. And in the meantime, the homeless who used to congregate there have spilled onto the side streets and other pocket parks. Ballpark neighborhood residents and businesses charge that as a result, crime has gone up -- and complain that the city has not provided the services it promised to create when the urban-camping ban went through almost two years ago.
To provide some of those services, the city supports creating an $8.6 million day center in the neighborhood that will be overseen by the Denver Rescue Mission, which is located right across from Triangle Park. A Denver City Council committee will take up the issue this morning.
Plenty of Ballpark residents will be in attendance; they've been complaining that the city hasn't listened to their concerns about putting yet another facility for the homeless in their neighborhood, which already houses three shelters.
But while plans for the day center are mired in controversy, the Triangle Park project is going ahead. Bids for construction of the park closed last week, according to Jeff Green, spokesman for the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, and a contractor should be selected this Friday. If all goes according to plan, the start date for construction will be at later this month, with an estimated completion in late June or early July.
"Denver Parks & Recreation, Denver's Road Home, and the Denver Police Department are working collaboratively on a community garden that will be enclosed within the park, with plots available for community space during designated, monitored usage times," Green says. "Denver Urban Gardens will develop skill-building programming in conjunction with the Denver Rescue Mission that allows the homeless community to participate in the community garden, in addition to the neighbors."
The neighbors who are still talking to them, that is.
Here are the agenda items that the city's Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will be considering at the meeting that starts at 10:30 a.m. today in the Denver City and County Building:
BR14-0300: Approves a grant agreement with the Denver Rescue Mission in the amount of $4,889,739 for construction of the Lawrence Street Community Center, related to the downtown increment financing project.
BR14-0301: Approves a grant agreement with the Denver Rescue Mission for purchase of properties located at 2222 and 2232 Lawrence Street for the purpose of constructing the Lawrence Street Community Center, related to the downtown increment financing project.
More from our archives: "Mayor Hancock strikes out with the Ballpark neighborhood"
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