Eddie Maestas's family had moved from Leadville to the Larimer Street neighborhood when he was a kid, and he grew up in this area, which was then a melting pot of immigrants and working-class folks. He got his first job there and, in 1975, he bought Johnnie's Market on Larimer. But he didn't just run the store; he ran the neighborhood, which was then so down-and-out it was known as NoDough. He helped out neighborhood businesses, he fed the homeless who wandered the street that had become Denver's skid row, he hosted festivals in the area, to remind people that this historic area still had plenty of potential.
In 1997, Maestas closed Johnnie's Market, just two years after Coors Field opened two blocks away; he passed away soon after. But by then, everything was in motion to turn the Ballpark neighborhood into one of the hottest parts of town.
And a hotspot for urban problems. Because city dwellers and retail businesses aren't the only ones moving into the neighborhood; more homeless are hanging out here, too. And by 2011, Eddie Maestas Park had unofficially turned into the Bumuda Triangle, a haven for the homeless and those who preyed on them. The place looked so bad that the Maestas family asked that the sign honoring Eddie be taken off the park; the city complied.But over the summer, in response to input from neighborhood groups, the city once again transformed the space: this time into a fenced-off urban garden.
Unlike the large sign commemorating Maestas that was installed here in 2006 -- and taken down five years later -- there's now just a small plaque denoting that this area is the Eddie Maestas Community Garden. On Thursday, October 16, the neighborhood is invited to the garden at 5 p.m. for a tour and refreshments, as well as a meeting of the Ballpark Neighborhood Association.
Unfortunately, Eddie Maestas's survivors may not be there to see the new sign dedicated to him: So far, the city has been unable to reach members of his family. Know how to reach them? Tell us in the comments section below.
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