The New Rift: The Story of a Gentrified Denver

Colorful Shack 2Photos and Story By: Chris Faber ‘20

The streets of Denver are changing, rapidly. The old victorian cottages that used to line the streets of neighborhoods like FivePoints and Cole are now being torn down and replaced with condos and massive apartment buildings. As demographics change, so do the lives of lifetime residents. The fabric of some communities is being changed irreparably.

In 2017 the population of Denver had grown by nearly ten thousand people. With an influx of people comes jobs, development, and most of all, housing demand. This affects the people who have lived there for their entire lives.

Mitchell Espino is a Junior at Regis Jesuit High school and a lifetime resident of FivePoints in Denver. He says of the culture change, “People in the community used to know each other.” “There’s also less Hispanics” he says.

He’s not wrong.

In this regard, Denver is at risk of becoming a homogenous city. Historically speaking, minorities and lower class residents populated neighborhoods like Cole, East Colfax, and Villa Park. FivePoints was a center of African American culture and was even dubbed the Harlem of the West. LoDo or Lower Downtown was a notorious spot for dive bars, vagrants and slum-like housing. These days however, these neighborhoods are more known for their craft beers, artisan sandwich shops, and handbags made out of hemp.

For some residents, this change has not been entirely negative. Byron, a lifetime resident of the East Colfax neighborhood, remarked, “I’m from the projects so I like all of these changes.” Byron went on to say that he believes Denver needs these changes “crime has gone down, I feel safer.” Mitchell Espino had a similar opinion: “There’s less gang violence; it’s not great, but it has gotten better.”

This is a common remark. While minority residents move out, police move in and crime goes down. Caleb Valenzuela, a Junior from Regis Jesuit high school, echoed a similar statement. “There used to be a lot of gang violence,” he said; “its more calm now.”

As community spaces turn to concrete jungles, the fear of displacement increases. Traditions are at stake for many residents. Looking forward, the future is bleak for some. The flow of new residents streaming into Denver is not likely to stop. While old ways are replaced, new ones arrive and depending on who you ask, they destroy or elevate neighborhoods. What is not up for debate is that these neighborhoods will never be the same.

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