Thursday, May 1, 2008

My draft story of the hood

Thursday, May 1, 2008
My draft story of the hood

I am going to miss our neighborhood.

i have lived in Denver most of my life and here in the highlands as an artist and activist since 1991.

18 years ago i moved in the north side from NYC. I picked this area because of the great cultural diversity and it was thick with artists. I purchased my house for 55k.The houses surrounding me abandoned and the corner homes were drug dealers. Look outs everywhere. In many ways it was safe. You just stayed out the way. I started a large community garden and became friends with most all my neighbors who were at first not to pleased with a white person on the block. With the community and Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church I helped build the ceramic mosaic walls along I-25. With HUNI I helped stop traffic engineers from building a clover leaf highway exit at 20th . Now it is a lovely green belt of grass parks and play grounds. :)

I met a wonderful Denver historian David Spencer “Spence” who taught me how to sleuth the history of my block and home from county records and micro film articles .. to where I found wonderful stories of the first 19th century residents. One is Minny Wilson a wild druggist the ( Wilson drugs store on the corner of 30th and Zuni) she owned my house and lived next door. Her grand children brought me her diaries. My 92 years old neighbor knew her and has been through it all and back. And now at the end of her life its the end of the neighborhood.

First was the working class Irish and Italians then came the new workers the Hispanics and always the artists.. then the greedy developers follow after seeing white people around. Now things are a changing very fast.

I will miss the woman walking their kids to school. (urban professionals drive their kids) The Sunday Mexican polka music in the air .. Zuni Plaza..Taqueria El valle with the old man playing the guitar and no white people or English spoken.. its all going soon .. I am soon going to have to go to.

I am a white artist and i don't have generations behind me..but I am sick and sad to the loss of a once culturally diverse and historic neighborhood .

Density is important rather then urban sprawl .. and I am resolved to the changes. It’s the greed of the developers that don’t even live in the area. The low standard of building quality and design. All has me very upset and frustrated.

Poverty is the steward to historic preservation, thus is the special unique charm to our area. Do not developers scrape everything get it? The reason the neighborhood is so hot right now is because of this special historic quality.

I have been watching the families get pushed out on my block one my one these past few years. Most lived here for over two generations.

I have been watching and documenting beautiful historic buildings scraped so a developers can build a particle board palaces. Because they paid so much for the property they have to use up every square ft of the land leaving no trees no yards.. and they go up as high as codes allow. Shading out the neighbors all the views and ending privacy.

The worse part They are so extremely poorly constructed.
It is this era of Disney land buildings all faking wealth but in reality are built extremely shoddy . Just As long as it looks wealthy it doesn't seem to matter to a new generation of buyers.

I welcome well thought out design that is a quality solid build ..it’s the fake the hollow that I have problems with. It’s a symbol of our culture now .. over extended ..hollow and owned by the bank. Throw away ..no craftsmanship .. empty of personal taste.

These are my tales of my block.
In the 1980s Pena administration brought a lot of change in the north side. He implemented several rehab programs bringing including putting in historic street lights and creating businesses and home ownership to many of the poor. It solidified the hood Hispanic. It was beautiful. Many of the businesses flourished. Soon those families made profits and many moved to the suburbs while renting out the properties to a poorer Mexican national class of migrant workers and day labor. That is when the area became even more dangerous and drug ridden. Our corner store was called “stop and stab”. Lower highland was a section with the highest violent crime rates in Denver. I will say it kept the developers at bay and east highland emerged. Slowly in the mid 80s the artists moved in to the abandoned buildings and crack houses. They lovingly restored them .. by the mid 90s developers saw white people around and soon were soon starting to buy up the low priced land and structures. Its an age old story. Now the old families and artists and all other working class all are being pushed out. Young professionals are moving in.

This is a brief documentation of the destruction my block to date.. and this is just my block.. this is happening on every block in the area.

The first of six beautiful historical buildings to go on my block was one of the earliest buildings on the hill ..it was a wood structure meaning it pre-dated mandatory brick so it was 1860-70s.. it was a small wooden house . It was scraped and a giant multiplex was put in its place covering every inch of the lot .. David Spencer addressed the planning meetings and all we could do was to get them to put brick instead of stucco on the outer wall which is three stories of windowless nothing. ( facing the street).

The worst example of night mare construction is across my alley.
A beautiful solid 1890s home with a carage house scrapped for this horror build by Remax ,all international investors that saw this was a place to throw money into.
It now towers over my two story home.( The garage starts at 14ft then three 14ft stories above that). This project I got a first hand view of the worst building practices I have ever witnessed.
The list is long on mind boggling mistakes that started with miss measuring the foundation which led to jack hammering sections out thus cracking the foundation ruining the structural integrity.. this is just the start ..that winter and spring and following fall was extremely wet with snow and rains. Water penetrated the unprotected particle board roof wall and floors over and over for many months during construction delays. Mold was growing .. and have you ever seen particle board the gets exposed to water over and over? It puffs up expands and looses all it tensile strength.
.. I felt sorry for them cause it all had to be replaced.
Well to my stunned amazement the day labor Hispanic crew was screwing down the chicken wire and starting to stucco over the damaged wasted particle board. Total shock .. someone should blow the whisle on this one. Maybe that’s a job for our council woman Judy Montero.

The next worst travesty on my block is next door. The two families pushed out . Two solid historic homes scraped. One in particular, a stone block home soon to go was built by stone cutters that help build a large part of19th century Denver. A important historic foot note is now forgotten forever. The painful night mare is they are going to rebuild a fake Disney version of Victorian architecture .. all plastic and styrofoam covered with stucco, and fake rock skins.. and making them multi units with no yards. I my opinion it’s the lowest of the lows in architecture today. And I have it right next door, My privacy is lost with three stories looking down into my windows and private yard spaces. And of course is the loss of the view of down town and the view of the mountians is enought to slit my wrists.

A recent event on my corner is a huge solid historic stone and brick building that was just scraped to make way for a Malibu looking beach front pad. It had housed six long time families that had to abruptly move. Also the historic house next to it and the long time second generation family. What was insult to injury was the demolition crew was sending all the historic red stone slabs and .. foundation grante stone blocks .. the bricks all to the dump. During after hours The new owner would not allow me on the property to save the stone and the demolition crew said they will have me arrested if I am caught on the site.

Conclusion, I am sad and frustrated watching families and diverse culture pushed out, watching a great historic neighborhood go down. Nothing one can do really. We can re zone to R-1 but that limits the rights of property owners and i am against urban sprawl. I guess just be happy get to know my new neighbors. I will have a film and slide show soon just for the historical documentation of if it all.

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