The Gentrification of Denver

The Union Street Journal

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America is losing its neighborhoods to real estate redevelopment and gentrification.

On the morning of November 22nd, Ink! Coffee put up a sign outside their store at 2851 Larimer street that read: “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.”

After quick customer and neighborhood backlash, the sign was taken down and apologies were made, but gentrification remains a prevalent issue in Denver.

Gentrification is defined as the renovation or improvement of a house or district in order to appeal to middle-class (usually white) tastes.

The River North neighborhoods where this coffee shop was located used to be heavily minority neighborhoods, once coined the “Harlem of the West” due to its flourishing jazz scene.

But today, the neighborhood is being gentrified. The median home value has risen between 40% to 66% in the RiNo area since 2000 according to The same source reports that since 2000, the percent of residents with bachelor’s degrees has increased from 16.9% to 57.8% indicating the increasing wealth and lowering poverty in the neighborhoods.

Gentrification causes both direct and exclusionary displacement.

Direct displacement is when a traditionally poor neighborhood is filled with wealthier, more educated people, rent goes up, the housing prices go up, store types get more expensive, and those who used to call the neighborhood home are slowly forced out as they become unable to pay rent or purchase a home.

Then there are the people who hold out. The people who withstand the increasing prices or somehow got a deal with a stabilized rent; those people are then stuck watching their neighborhood torn apart, dispersed, and redeveloped until they too eventually move out due to alienation.

These neighborhoods might improve, the statistics may look nice on paper, with all the increasing values, but the people who used to call Five Points home are only pushed elsewhere in other poverty pockets around Denver.

Gentrification has gone unnoticed for too long and for too many forced moves. Whether it is through better communication with the communities and developers or the use of existing policy tools to retain diverse housing, something must be done.

If this gentrification continues then Denver loses its culture. What used to make the city and its close-knit neighborhoods unique will then be taken over and replaced with national chains aimed at the wealthy. The local restaurants used to catering locals and incentivised to be nice and genuine will be forced out for another McDonalds or Starbucks. No longer will it have the soul of those who made Five Points what it is known for.

Denver is losing its founding culture.