Photos: Cleaning Up Colfax Avenue, Denver's Most Notorious Street

The Colfax Business Improvement District is working to clean up the "Upper Colfax" stretch of the infamous avenue between Josephine and Grant streets.

Frank Locantore, community director of the CBID, spent the summer interviewing business owners block by block to understand the issues they face.

And last month, Locantore outlined the district's plans and goals in the organization's e-mail newsletter.

The district's plan starts with "discovery" and "assessment" stages (nearly completed), before moving to "clean-up," "create" and "maintain" stages.

It calls for stakeholders to "demonstrate 'ownership' of the Colfax community" to deal with graffiti and trespassers, among other problems.

The district's strategy relies heavily on a passive shaping of the community to deter blight, drawing inspiration from "Broken Windows" policing.

"Streetscaping," the district's top-rated solution, suggests that stakeholders can take control of their blocks with lights, trees and bike racks to beautify the neighborhood.

But a major piece of the strategy, which is not listed in the plan, involves the construction of strategic infrastructure like fences and flower boxes to ensure security and discourage loitering.

During Locantore's block walks this summer, he heard a lot of talk centering on annexing alcoves and doorways to keep out unwanted elements.

This summer, for example, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at Colfax and Logan Street tore down large planter boxes lining the block and replaced them with a new fence.

Church officials say the area was a regular hangout for drug dealers and users.

Locantore points to these changes as an example of how community ownership can be asserted.

A second focus of the Colfax Business Improvement District's plan: better communication between police and community stakeholders.

At one of his summer meetings, Locantore mentioned the possibility of a "Colfax Journal," which would be a shared document between cops and business owners to address specific issues.

The Basilica's new fencing started as a suggestion from Denver Police Department.

This cooperation with authorities also plays out in "Trespassing Agreements," in which a business owner can designate whether or not his property is fair game for trespassing enforcement after hours.

"It is more difficult for owners to enforce when the business is closed," notes Locantore in the newsletter.

These agreements give police power and direction to eject people from certain spaces at night.

The District has also made donations to the Guardian Angels, the red-beret-wearing safety volunteers who patrol the neighborhood mostly on Saturday nights.

The Angels are seen by business owners and authorities as an effective force against trespassers and criminals.

According to Locantore, business owners will be able to file trespassing agreements with the Guardian Angels as well.

"To be clear," writes Locantore, "there is no one single thing that is needed to help Colfax Avenue live up to its potential as the greatest Main Street in Denver. It takes attention, collaboration, support, and some TLC.

"I can affirm that the CBID Board of Directors has committed resources and prioritized this effort and I will maintain forward momentum in order to improve this great and storied Avenue."

One of CBID's 2016 goals is to have at least 50 percent of businesses in the area make trespassing agreements with the Denver Police Department's District 6.

See more about the Colfax Business Improvement District at its website,
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