Denver City Council Honoring Longtime Neighborhood Activist, Heart Surgeon

Denver City Council Honoring Longtime Neighborhood Activist, Heart Surgeon (2)
Courtesy of Charles Brantigan
For nearly three decades, Charles "Chuck" Brantigan has been fixing hearts and saving neighborhoods.

The retired chief of surgery at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center is best known for helping establish zoning districts to prevent hospitals from expanding into residential neighborhoods without feedback from residents.

Denver City Council is paying homage to him tonight, February 25, before he retires from his work as the chair of the Uptown Healthcare District Design Forum, a group he founded in 1993 that brings together neighborhood activists and hospital representatives if and when a hospital decides to expand.

Brantigan lives by the St. Joseph medical complex that straddles the Five Points and City Park West neighborhoods. Until he started taking up the issue thirty years ago, hospitals in Denver were able to expand into residential neighborhoods by buying property without notifying or discussing their plans with the neighborhood. If an individual or group of landowners decided to sell their property to a hospital, the expansion could detrimentally affect the neighborhood's property owners. "These people were helpless," says Jim Wiseman, one of Brantigan's partners in dealing with the issue.

Brantigan helped write zoning codes to establish districts that defined where hospitals in residential neighborhoods could expand, as well as founding the Uptown Healthcare District Design Forum.

"In the beginning, it was hard to moderate the meetings," between hospitals and neighborhoods, he says. "We started off with everybody at each other’s throats. We eventually got to a point where although there were differences of opinions, they decided that everybody was interested in the same thing. What was good for hospitals and their employees was a nice, stable, safe neighborhood."

Friends and fellow neighborhood activists, like Marty Jones of Five Points, say Brantigan is partially responsible for helping preserve the integrity of Denver's neighborhoods. "His day job was saving people’s lives. His volunteer job — I don’t know if you could say saving lives, but definitely making people’s lives in the neighborhood a heck of a lot better," says Jones.

Brantigan says he'll stay active in his retirement. He and his wife, Kathy, co-founded the Denver Brass, a fourteen-piece brass-instrument ensemble that plays concerts throughout the year that they will continue to be involved in. Kathy also owns a historic railroad roundhouse in Como, Colorado, which the couple recently restored. The Brantigans have also restored several Victorian homes in Denver and advocated for their street to become a historic district. And Charles says that he'll continue to work on his book about William Lang, one of Denver's most famous architects.

"He’s really been a saint in this part of town," Jones says of Charles. "He’s had a gigantic impact on the quality of life here."
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.