October 2, 2014
From The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26646455/denver-neighborhood-cited-great-by-national-association
By Kieran Nicholson
A west Denver neighborhood in the shadow of downtown has pulled itself up after some turbulent times. Trumpeting the turnaround, the American Planning Association
on Wednesday recognized the La Alma/Lincoln Park area as "One of 10 Great Neighborhoods" in the country.
Joe Phillipps has lived in the neighborhood since 1980 and currently resides in a tidy, single-family home near West 10th Avenue and Mariposa Street.
"It's a great central location. It's real accessible to everything," Phillipps said from his front porch Wednesday. "I love it here because of its diversity."
In touting the neighborhood, which lies south of the Auraria campus, the APA noted proximity to downtown, diversity in housing and land use, and a broad range of cultural and public facilities, among other factors.
"Dating back to the 1850s, the community is well-known for its Hispanic and Latino heritage. It is a mixed-use neighborhood at the heart of Denver," said the APA, a nonprofit group started in 1978.
South Santa Fe Drive runs through the neighborhood, from West Sixth Avenue to the south to West Colfax Avenue to the north, and for years, especially through the 1970s, the corridor looked worse for wear.
But dozens of artists have found homes and galleries in the burgeoning area, forming Denver's Art District on Santa Fe
, and the Colorado Ballet recently moved
into new digs at 1075 Santa Fe Drive.
Gary Reed, a photographer and vice president with the nonprofit arts district, said the resurgence in the neighborhood is, in part, the result of collaborative efforts.
"A big part of this is working with neighborhood groups," Reed said. "We've been right in the thick of it, trying to bring in more art and art projects."
The arts district hosts a First Friday Art Walk, drawing up to 15,000 people to the area for the monthly summer event.
As galleries continue to open in the neighborhood, drawing in other businesses — restaurants, tattoo parlors, hair salons and a brewpub — concerns arose about long-term residents, including some multigenerational inhabitants, being forced out.
Veronica Barela, who grew up in the neighborhood, has been looking out for the interests of neighbors since the 1970s.
As president and CEO of the nonprofit community development corporation NEWSED, Barela has served a major role in reshaping the area.
The Denver Housing Authority is in the midst of an ambitious $150 million project in the area. The Mariposa District, scheduled for completion in 2018, will link the 10th and Osage Light Rail station with the arts district.
The 800-unit project will strengthen public housing in the area, replacing older two-story buildings with dense, high-rise units that will include middle-income and market-rate units.
"Our mission is to do affordable housing in the neighborhood," Barela said.
Between the housing authority and NEWSED projects, long-term residents will be able to stay in the area if they so choose, Barela said.
"I think we do our best to create affordable housing," she said. "We have plans. I'm having more fun than I've ever had."