Holly Square Shopping Center: Basketball hoops rise from the ashes

As recounted in the July feature "Up from the Ashes," northeast Park Hill residents are hoping the site of Holly Square Shopping Center is ready to turn the corner after years of drug deals, gang skirmishes and, most recently, a gang-related arson attack that leveled the strip mall. The first step is a planned peace mural and basketball courts there. While the peace mural has been delayed (organizers are still awaiting promised funds from the city), the long-awaited basketball courts will be completed this weekend.

The concrete pads on the site, once the base for the now-demolished shopping center, have been flattened and cured into basketball courts, funding for which has come from both the city parks and rec department and the Denver Nuggets. On Saturday morning, volunteers from the University of Colorado at Boulder will finish it off, affixing the hoops on the already-installed basketball poles, reports Terrance Roberts, a one-time shot-caller for the neighborhood's Bloods; he's now turned into a local community activist who's spearheading the Holly's transformation. "It already doesn't look the same, man," he says, "And once we get the hoops up, it's going to be 100 percent better."

The project sets the stage for a dedication ceremony on October 23 featuring players from he Denver Nuggets. Who knows: Maybe Chauncey Billups will show up, since he got his start as a neighborhood kid right around the Holly.

In the meantime, the courts will be seeing lots of action -- and not the type that's long besieged the neighborhood hangout. "By Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, you'll be seeing kids out there playing," says Roberts. "And if they aren't out there, at least I'll be out there."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner