Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Colfax businesses in the dark over Greektown's blue-light special

Businesses along a stretch of East Colfax Avenue have been in the dark about why, well, they were still in the dark last week - months after a new lighting project had started on the street, as part of a package of city improvements to "create an enhanced transit corridor." The Colfax East project called for not just improved curbs and sidewalks and new trees, but 167 pedestrian lights -- three dozen of them painted a special "Greektown Blue." Not that you could see them at night.

The blue lights were designed to match the blue street furniture/bins along the six-block stretch of Greektown, which runs from Columbine to St. Paul streets, and were to be maintained with funding from the Greektown Local Maintenance District. But first, those lights had to be turned on.

Residents and property owners along other parts of the Colfax Avenue project - the stretch from Grant to Columbine streets falls under the Colfax Business Improvement District, and much of that work fell under a Better Denver Bond project - were also complaining about a factual black-out.

If Denver really wants to make Denver's "Main Street" a regular shopping destination, they said, it would help to illuminate all of Colfax - including the Lowenstein project, which is home to a Tattered Cover, Twist & Shout and the Sies FilmCenter, all hot holiday destinations.

"The Greek Town blue lamp posts were installed late last summer, I believe -- but without light bulbs," one business owner complained. "So they look mighty nice during the day, but are otherwise useless." And despite having contacting various city agencies and council offices, she wasn't getting any useful answers. "Hey, maybe Westword can bring us a miracle of (Greek) lights in the midst of the Festival of Lights, i.e., Hanukkuh!"

In the spirit of giving, we contacted both Xcel and the Denver Department of Public Works, asking them to shed some light on the subject. And finally, on December 14, Public Works sent an announcement to neighbors along East Colfax:

We're so close to having all of the pedestrian lights illuminated! As we're sure you know, the lights from Logan to Pennsylvania, Pearl to Washington, Emerson to Ogden, Josephine to York, and Elizabeth to Clayton have yet to be activated. Xcel Energy will be completing their meter installations for these remaining pedestrian lights early next week. Meters measure the consumption of electricity running the light. After the meters are installed, the lights can be turned on. We anticipate that by the end of next week, all the remaining pedestrian lights in the contract will be turned on. If any of the lights are not operating properly, please contact Denver Public Works Project Manager Marco Cabanillas. KECI Colorado and the City and County of Denver appreciate your patience and cooperation during this construction.

We'll see. Or more to the point, we won't...if the lights aren't turned on this week. Watch for updates on Denver's blue-light special. From our archives: "It Takes a Greek Town: The plan to revive East Colfax: belly dancers, bazouki music, baklava--and blue sidewalks."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun