Denver’s Future is Beginning to Look Brighter
I don’t have to tell you that Upper Downtown has seen problems that have appeared or worsened in the last 2 ½ years. After all, that’s the whole reason that we formed UpDoNA in the first place. Homelessness, illegal camping, crime, graffiti, and other problems sometimes seem to be all around us. It’s important to note that Denver isn’t unique and that downtowns across the country are seeing similar problems. The most important point I want to convey to you is that I believe that things are getting better, and our future is beginning to look brighter.
UpDoNA is working for you
As you probably know, UpDoNA’s Safety & Quality of Life Committee (S&QOL) is quite active in working with the city to improve many aspects of life in downtown Denver. We have spent countless hours working with the city on finding solutions to problems. Due to our advocacy, the police have broken up the drug haven that existed at 16th & Champa, they are policing the parking lot behind Aloft twice a shift and have increased their presence around the Convention Center.
I recently met some police officers who were walking a beat near the Performing Arts Center, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that in years.
Due to a request UpDoNA made to Evan Dryer (Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Hancock), changes have been made to the underground steam system at 14th & Stout, intended to eliminate the escape of steam from the manhole covers there which attract illegal campers to that corner during the colder months. Their presence directly across the street from the Convention Center was not helpful to efforts to draw convention business to Denver, and it was expensive for the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) who cleaned up trash and drug paraphernalia every single morning at 7AM.
Most of all, the steam was harmful to the campers whose clothing could become saturated with moisture increasing the chances of hypothermia. While some steam still escapes periodically, the changes have made a dramatic improvement. Permanent enhanced lighting is also planned for that corner which should provide additional discouragement from camping there and hopefully will encourage them to accept the city’s offers for warm shelter.
There are many other activities in work. We continue to believe that shelters are a critical part of the city’s fight against homelessness but locating one such as Aloft that is 100 paces from the front door of the Convention Center is the simply wrong place for it. Conventions are critical to Denver’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and the drug use and sales which are commonly observed behind Aloft is not helpful to the attraction of more conventions.
We continue to advocate for the closure of the Aloft shelter, moving the residents to other shelters or permanent housing, and returning it to its proper use as a hotel.
The UpDoNA Cares Committee is working with homeless charities such as Step Denver and The Dolores Project to help those experiencing homelessness and who need help finding their way out of their current situation. The Scooter Committee is working to find ways to make the sidewalks safer for pedestrians.
Denver’s Economic Recovery is Progressing
Kourtny Garret, President and CEO of the DDP reports that almost $900 million in private sector projects were completed in 2021 and another $1.6 billion is being invested in twelve projects currently under construction. There are other transformative projects in work or being planned, including the 16th Street Mall Reconstruction, Skyline Park Renovation, River Mile, the 5280 trail and others. Residential population has continued to grow even through the pandemic. The growth has slowed, but more and more people continue to move to downtown every day. Employees are returning to work downtown, albeit slowly. Just the fact that DDP is working for us makes me personally feel good. Their energy and creativity can’t help but continue to move Denver forward, and their advocacy for downtown Denver should make every one of us feel good about the future of the city we all love.
Together We Will
One of the most exciting announcements that I’ve heard lately is Together We Will. Several UpDoNA members had the privilege of attending a media event at the Convention Center on November 10th where this multi-agency cooperative project was announced by DDP, Mayor Hancock, Chiefs of the Denver Police and RTD’s Transit Police and members of city, state, and US Attorney’s Offices. This initiative is focused on improving safety and the perception of safety in Upper Downtown, which is the economic engine for Denver and Colorado, with an initial focus on the Convention Center Corridor.
It is intended to bring “strong enforcement with compassionate response” with a goal of addressing immediate health and safety concerns while targeting root causes and identifying long-term solutions.
A Downtown Action Team is being immediately mobilized. This is similar to the one that was formed to clean up Union Station and will consist of several agencies working together in a coordinated manner. These agencies include:
- Denver Police Department (DPD)
- Street Enforcement Team (SET)
- Support Team Assisted Response vans (STAR Vans)
- Denver Fire Department’s medical team
- WellPower (mental health) clinicians
- Substance Abuse Navigators
- Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) graffiti and trash workers
- DDPs purple-shirts
The DPD is adding 180 additional officers. The US Attorney’s Office is adding four Special Assistant US Attorneys to the Denver office to prosecute violent crimes. A half million dollars is being dedicated to Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) to enhance Their energy and creativity can’t help but continue to move Denver forward, and their advocacy for downtown Denver should make every one of us feel good about the future of the city we all love. lighting and other factors leading to degraded conditions downtown.
UpDoNA worked with the city to provide $5,000 of CPTED money to Spire for the installation of scissor gates to the dumpster area. This is intended to prevent people from getting into the dumpsters and removing cardboard which DDP has reported to have found all over downtown. UpDoNA is interested in hearing from other buildings about projects which could potentially be funded with CPTED money.
Together We Can is not just another short-term initiative and is planned to last a minimum of 12 months.
We all want downtown to return to the fun vibrant place it once was. These are all positive steps to a better future. Things aren’t going to change overnight, but I think we are on the way.
Photo attribution: Lisa Pope and Rob Squire