Statement in Support of Denver’s East Central Area Plan
All In Denver is a non-profit advocacy organization that believes an equitable city is where all people have the opportunity to prosper and thrive. We are a membership organization that draws people from many communities in Denver, and touching many professional backgrounds—K-12 education, arts and culture, urban planning, affordable housing, community development and philanthropy.
Nearly three years ago, after the adoption of Blueprint Denver, Denver launched the Neighborhood Planning Initiative (NPI) to accelerate area-specific planning that help guides positive change in our neighborhoods as Denver continues to grow. All In Denver offers our organizational support for the East Central Area Plan, the second NPI plan to come forward after the plan for Denver’s Far Northeast area neighborhoods; and we strongly urge City Council to approve this plan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed numerous social, economic, environmental and civic challenges that Denver must confront. Some of these challenges—including homelessness, access to jobs and education, and safety net services—are immediate and require solutions today. Other challenges are long-range: planning our land use patterns to better accommodate more affordably-priced housing, better public transit and mobility alternatives, and crafting policies that positively impact the environment. Underlying all of those challenges is Denver’s need for plans and policies that promote racial equity, expand access to opportunity, and create more inclusive neighborhoods. These principles have never been more important, and they reflect the priorities of the community generated by more than 10,000 comments over three years of collaboration among stakeholders. The East Central Area Plan presents many policy recommendations and strategies to assist small, locally-owned businesses; prevent involuntary displacement of low-income residents, so many of whom are essential workers in these neighborhoods and across the city; provide enhanced social services and housing solutions for residents experiencing homelessness; expand access to quality education, jobs and job training; and support the local economy of the East Central Area neighborhoods which are dependent on a healthy small businesses environment, access to Downtown, and strong ties to Denver’s healthcare sector.
Moreover, the current neighborhood plans in the East Central Area—many of which were written and adopted 20-30 years ago—do not put affordable housing, inclusive neighborhoods, multi-modal transportation needs or equity in the foreground. By contrast, the East Central Area Plan puts these community needs front-and-center.
Mobility & Transportation
There is growing realization that Denver must re-imagine its street and sidewalk network, and make our public right-of-ways safer and more comfortable for everybody. The street and sidewalk network accounts for about 30 percent of a city’s public space, but what we have today is generally designed for and dominated by cars, and it’s obvious that the auto-dependent layout of the Colfax Corridor is contributing to air pollution and climate change. The neighborhoods in the East Central Area—a large section of Denver bordered by Broadway, Colorado Boulevard, 7th Avenue and 23rd Avenue—have disconnected sidewalk and bicycle infrastructure that need the City’s attention and investment. To address this, the Plan informs potential land uses and mobility improvements to complement the 15 and 15L bus service on East Colfax—the workhorse of RTD’s regional transit system—and the future overhaul of the corridor for bus rapid transit (BRT). Additionally, the East Central Plan proposes dozens of recommendations for multi-modal improvements that will make it safer and easier for people to walk, bike or take the bus to work, while also focusing attention on often-neglected neighborhood-scale “Main Streets” to ensure they are safe and attractive places for people to work, shop and socialize.
Affordable Housing & Inclusive Neighborhoods
The East Central Area Plan extensively lays out a detailed approach that will allow these neighborhoods to be proactive and prepare together to expand much-needed housing opportunities, and make these neighborhoods more affordable, more available and more accessible to a wide range of families and individuals. Aligned with the principles of Blueprint Denver and the Neighborhood Planning Initiative, the East Central Plan encourages gentle density, including policies that promote accessory dwelling units, allowing apartments in existing larger homes, and channeling greater density near transit and where urban infrastructure is already concentrated. Additionally, the East Central Area Plan builds a foundation for incentive-based zoning that will encourage the development of affordable housing close to transit.
We also applaud the inclusion in the East Central Plan of strategies and policy recommendations to improve services for residents experiencing homelessness. Indeed, the housing strategies and proposed policies in the East Central Area Plan reflect new thinking that more fully integrates Denver’s community values into our growth management strategies.
Economic Opportunity and Racial Equity
Importantly, the East Central Area Plan puts a spotlight on how Denver’s rapid growth in the last 20 years has brought about intense changes and disparities to Denver’s social, economic, racial and generational fabric, even in neighborhoods—especially those in the East Central Plan footprint—where the physical realm has changed very little. It includes creative strategies to expand housing attainability for families struggling to afford Denver’s out of reach housing prices and outlines strategies to support locally-owned businesses and home-grown entrepreneurship, industries which have never been more critical than right now as our small business sector has been torn apart by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indeed, approving the East Central Area Plan and moving quickly into implementation should be a chief priority in order to make our neighborhoods more inclusive, and to alleviate the extraordinary pressure on the affordable, ethnically diverse and rapidly-gentrifying neighborhoods across Denver’s landscape.
Statement approved by the All In Denver board of directors –
visit www.allindenver.org for a board roster and additional information