After spending a few years in Richmond, Virginia a former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post has returned to the Mile High city with her family.
With fresh eyes, Tina Griego gapes at the change in real estate prices, especially in areas where gentrification has altered old neighborhoods, and worries about what it may mean for longtime residents of those communities.
Excerpts from her recent essay at The Colorado Independent:
A report Denver officials released on gentrification in the city quantifies what your eyes tell you every time you drive through LoHi or RiNo or Five Points or Jefferson Park. Every time you see gleaming new apartment buildings towering over tidy bungalows, and block after block punctuated by the sheetrock-, glass- and metal-clad bones of Tyvek-wrapped buildings preparing to welcome the 1,000 new households moving to Denver every month.
The study, by the Office of Economic Development, focuses on “involuntary displacement,” which, depending upon how you look at it, is either gentrification by another name, or is one of its byproducts – something like revitalization run amok. Involuntary displacement most commonly refers to a working-class or lower-income neighborhood that is remade in the shape of its incoming younger, wealthier (and, typically, whiter) residents. In this remaking, longtime lower-income residents are pushed out by rising rents or property taxes.
The question is not a simple matter of whether what is happening now in Denver is good or bad. It is both. The question is who defines what a city becomes. And the challenge is to find the sweet spot where public investment meets private, where government policy and market imperatives intersect and amplify opportunity in all neighborhoods, among all communities.