Longform

This Old Housing Project

Page 9 of 11

"I'm baffled that the city doesn't jump at this," says Chuck Brantigan, a member of the Uptown Urban Design Forum, a neighborhood organization in the area. "Here you have a bunch of neighborhood groups saying we want to preserve low-income housing, and a private developer with a track record of building exactly what they say they're going to build. Then you have the mayor saying we'll front the money, which he doesn't really have."

"The city recognizes that its offer was obviously not competitive with Post Properties," says mayoral press secretary Andrew Hudson. "We've looked at other fund sources, but I don't know where it's at right now in terms of whether there will be another offer." The city is releasing an affordable-housing plan in the next couple of months, he adds.

For its part, Post said on Tuesday that it was withdrawing its contract because it "hasn't been able to forge the consensus it believes is vital to bulding the unique neighborhoods we strive for."


From Superfly's two-bedroom apartment, the Soul Food soundtrack blares through large speakers. Outside, the 43-year-old, his wife and a few friends sit on the stoop, sipping beers. Nobody is eager to reveal their real names, but 'Fly says he works as an assistant manager over grounds at the Denver Zoo; his wife also works at the zoo.

Superfly has been at East Village for five years. He thinks the closing of Stapleton and the arrival of light rail doomed the neighborhood to gentrification. His pal, C Dogg, agrees: "I've never seen this many white people in this neighborhood."

Nearby, one light is out, and its pole leans like the Tower of Pisa. The security door to their building is gone. Been gone for years. "How hard is it to replace a door?" says another friend, named Rance. He looks at the grass. It's more than dead. It's gone. "Ain't nothing ever gonna grow here."

Superfly offers a tour of his two-bedroom apartment, where he lives with his wife and her twelve-year-old son, Delano. The place has four television sets, two stereo systems and two mini-stereo systems. As if there's doubt, he points out, more than once, "Everything is paid for, nothin' stolen up here. I paid cash."

His wife sleeps on the couch because he snores. 'Fly wants a house someday. "We all want to get away from here."

In the living room, he points to framed pictures on the wall and asks, "Who's that?"

It's portraits of Mandela and Malcolm and Martin. Two of Tupac Shakur, one with a caption that reads "Only God can judge me." On the television, someone is making a speech at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.


The City of Denver conducted its own analysis of what East Village is worth, and its numbers came out to about the same as the housing authority's offer, around $6 million. "If the city was to take it over, there are a lot of ideas floating around," says Hudson. "The mayor wants to see market-rate housing, affordable housing for police officers and teachers, and low-income housing."

That mixture of low-income and market-rate housing is similar to the promises Post had been making. "Post has been committed for over two years to preserve low-income housing that exists at East Village," Harmer says. "It's Post's style to engage in a very intense community process for assessing what the redevelopment should look like."

Barros uses one of her favorite words, "sneaky," when describing how she thinks Post would deal with residents. "They're gonna take our yards and trees," she says. "I don't think they're gonna make it a community. They don't have it over there [at St. Luke's] where they built the new project. I don't think they're doing anything in good faith."

Barros knows she walks a fine line. She supports the housing authority in its condemnation efforts -- and thereby opposes Post --but she knows residents will have to deal with Post, or another private developer, if the condemnation fails. "While a renewal agreement with HUD could only be for five years, [a developer] could enter into a contractual agreement with the city and the DHA to maintain the units for as long as the city can negotiate," says HUD's Garcia.

The city is not entirely without leverage here. Its strongest bargaining chip is that East Village is intertwined with the fifty DHA units of Arrowhead: It would be unrealistic for any developer to buy one without addressing the other. "DHA and the city have real leverage with the fifty units intermingled in the site," Harmer says. "It would be Post's preference to partner in redeveloping the whole site with DHA."

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T.R. Witcher