Comment of the Day

Readers: Communities Change, but There Are Right and Wrong Ways to Deal With It

The temperature's rising — and so are tempers around Denver, as many areas of town suddenly find old buildings being scraped off and new, bigger buildings coming in. The Whittier neighborhood is one of these hot spots, The north Denver neighborhood was the focus of Lauri Lynnxe Murphy's "The New 'Hood," our recent cover story on the Gentrification Project, a campus-wide course at Manual High School. That article inspired a long response from one newcomer to the area who asked to remain anonymous, which in turn has inspired more comments about Whittier in particular, and gentrification in general. Says Jelena Suboti?
First of all, the original article was really great. Loved it.

I sympathize with the reader because anybody, regardless of race, should be able to peacefully live wherever they choose without feeling ostracized. That being said, when you move into a new neighborhood, you’re becoming part of that community. It’s up to you to learn about the area, meet your neighbors, and actively make yourself part of that community. Want a dog park? That’s great. Engage in dialogue with your new neighbors and see how the rest of the community feels about it.

The problem with gentrification isn’t white people moving in, it’s about an outsider coming in to a sacred community space and systematically dismantling a culture and community that took decades to build. The original article had a great anecdote about coffee shops. Nearly everyone loves a good cup of coffee. Who wouldn’t want a cool new coffee shop in the neighborhood? The problem is that most coffee shops that come through with gentrification are inaccessible to a large portion of original residents. Obviously the coffee shop is a business, but it’s unilateral business decisions like this that fail to take into account the rich history of the neighborhood and ultimately abandon people who have lived their for years and built up the community.

On the flip side, gentrification isn’t all bad in that violent crime rates drop, which is great for everyone. Unfortunately, by the time that happens the only people left to enjoy it are the people who just moved in. Ultimately, we can’t immediately stop developers or landlords who want to make more money by selling or demolishing homes and we can’t immediately stop people from losing their homes or people from feeling ostracized in their new homes, but we can and should meet with each other and practice some empathy. Communities change but there’s a wrong and a right way to go about that shift.
What do you think of the developments in Denver? What's the right way for communities to deal with change?

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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