The inn is just a few miles from Dad's house, in the neighborhood where he grew up - which used to be the Italian section of town.
We took a meandering route to get there so Dad could show us all of the schools he attended as a child, as well as the boarding house that his grandmother (my great grandmother) used to own.
As the Italians integrated into the larger society, the area became primarily Hispanic or Latino, and now... well now it seems to be transforming into Denver's latest hip and trendy neighborhood.
Seriously, the amount of construction going on there is really amazing - there must be a new group of town houses or condos going up on practically every block!
|I call this "Lego Construction" Seriously, doesn't it look like it's made from Legos?|
So zoning laws have been changed, huge investments have been made in light rail and other forms of mass transit, and there's a movement to make Denver into one of the country's most walk-able/bike-able cities with things like bike sharing programs and improved infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.
I've gotta say I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand the sustainability nut in me is jumping for joy.
I mean it's almost like a dream come true... light rail trains, people walking and biking to work instead of driving 30 miles from the exurbs. It's like the city planners have gone sane or something!
And remember my bike lane fantasy where I dreamed that the city would take some low traffic streets and turn them into bike-only right of ways? Well, something very similar is actually happening! They're called "bike boulevards."
OK, they're not quite as cool and groovy as my phantasmagorical pipe dream because they don't prevent as much vehicular traffic as I had hoped, but the plan is to optimize certain streets for bicycle traffic with stop signs oriented to require traffic to stop for bikes, easy ways to get across major thoroughfares, low speed limits for cars, and "traffic calming" devices like roundabouts designed to keep speeders from driving too fast.
And get this... the first one is gonna be in my neighborhood! For reals... a bike boulevard right here in the barrio! My city council rep must have had to stand on his head and do back flips to make that happen! (BTW - I refer to my neighborhood as "the barrio" because it's one of Denver's poorest neighborhoods with a mostly Hispanic/Latino population. In Spanish "barrio" simply means "area" or "neighborhood" so I don't mean the term in a derogatory way.)
So as you can see, part of me is really, REALLY excited about the changes coming to my city.
But there's another part of me that's a bit leery of all this change. I mean while it's fabulous to see the revitalization of so many of Denver's oldest neighborhoods, I've gotta admit that I feel a bit sad to see so many old buildings being torn down and so many areas losing their character.
I've gotta wonder how much longer my great-grandma's boarding house will be there... or even my dad's house for that matter. His house (which is nearly 120 years old, and that's OLD for this part of the world) sits on a huge lot, so I'm sure there would be plenty of developers who would love to knock it down and build several dwellings there.
And when poorer areas "come up" and become gentrified, what's to become of the lower income folks who currently live there? It's not like the poor folk just disappear because they get priced out of the neighborhoods where they grew up... they've got to go somewhere.
Denver is trying to address this issue through a new affordable housing ordinance which will require builders to either make a certain percentage of the units in new buildings "affordable" or else build an additional lower rent facility somewhere nearby.
But the ordinance is limited, and one has to wonder who gets to define "affordable." Seriously, it's hard to find even a studio apartment within the city and county of Denver for under $1000/month! And the vacancy rate in Denver is at about 5% meaning there aren't many places available to rent to begin with.
I'm already noticing a new trend here in the barrio - white people!
I'm not exactly one to talk on this subject, because I am pretty much the whitest of the white, but it would make me very sad to see this neighborhood lose its ethnic character. However if the cost of housing continues to rise... which it seems quite likely that it will, I think it's almost inevitable that middle class white people will start moving to more affordable neighborhoods like mine.
So I dunno... is all this change a good thing or a bad thing? I think one could make an argument either way. Is sustainability really "sustainable" if it prices out a huge chunk of the population? I mean, people clearly want walk-able and bike-able neighborhoods because they are flocking to them, and that's a good thing. But how do we do it in a way that's inclusive rather than forcing out entire populations? And are we really accomplishing anything if all we achieve is moving rich people closer to the city and poor people further out?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this whole topic. How has your area dealt with these sorts of issues?