Sunnyside: Quaint charm on the brink of Denver's housing boom

9NEWS at 5:30 a.m. 10/7/16.

SUNNYSIDE - Adjacent to the popular Highlands neighborhoods of Denver, Sunnyside has eclectic charm, an influx of local businesses, and seems primed for a huge boom in housing and development.

In some areas, it's already begun.

Join us Friday on Instagram for a tour of the North Denver neighborhood! 

The Sunnyside neighborhood is a 1.5-square-mile area in Denver bordered by Federal Boulevard to the west, I-70 to the north, Inca Street to the east and West 38th Avenue to the south. 

It's home to about 4,000 households and 10,000 people. 

Once plagued by crime and low property values, Sunnyside has spent the last decade reviving itself, largely helped by the explosion of its neighbor to the south, the Highland neighborhood, as well as intervention from police and associations like Sunnyside United Neighbors Inc.

Today, it's on the verge of a boom, ripe for urban renewal and development.

Sunnyside's History

Sunnyside was formed in 1858 as one of Denver’s original neighborhoods, alongside Berkeley Lake, Potter Highlands, Sloan’s Lake and West Highlands. In the 1860s and the 1870s droves of Irish immigrants moved to Denver’s Highlands neighborhood.

The smelting industry fueled Sunnyside’s development as Denver approached the 20th century. Another influx of immigrants – this time from southern Italy- arrived to Sunnyside to work on the railroad, establishing large vegetable gardens and small, one-room brick cottages known as “Little Italy,” spanning Osage, Navajo, Mariposa, Lipan and Inca. One early mercantile business was located along W 38th Ave at Jason.

Lewis K. Perin owned rich farmland from 44th to 48th, Federal to Zuni, where he worked as one of Colorado’s most successful farmers in 1875. He grew sugar beets, and had an orchard filled with grapes at what is today 4375 Clay Street.

The Smelting Company would burn to the ground in 1913 and was never rebuilt.

For decades the Highlands tried to remain independent of Denver, but was eventually annexed to the city in 1896. That same year, the Denver Post reported the trip from North Denver to downtown would take about an hour by horse car.

An icon in the neighborhood, The Federal Theater was constructed at 38th and Federal in the 1920s.

When the neighborhood was first established, street names were for wildlife (Antelope, Bison, Coyote Deer and Elk). 

Sunnyside was annexed into the city in three iterations, so the housing is a mix of many types, ages and styles. The oldest homes are found east of Pecos Street.

As the century turned, more Hispanic immigrants slowly replaced the Italian residents, schools were built, and streets were given alphabetical Indian names and chronological numbers.

In the 1940s, the northern part of Sunnyside was known as "Quonset Town," filled with prefabricated shelters made from corrugated metal, built by the Department of Defense in response to the housing shortage after World War II.

Streetcars become prominent, with no location in the neighborhood more than three blocks away from a trolley route. Streetcar service would end by 1950.

The Quigg Newton Homes, now Denver's largest public housing project, were built during the 50s.

In 1943, Ernie’s Pizza Bar opens at 44th and Elliot, and is known not just for its pies, but for its fried chicken.

Gaetano’s, which still serves Italian fare today, was moved to its location in 1947 by the Smaldone family. The name Gaetano is Italian for “Clyde.”

During the 60s and 70s, the Hispanic population of the neighborhood doubled and remains a heavy influence on the neighborhood's culture to this day.

In the mid-1960s, Interstate 70 was built along the northern edge of Sunnyside, isolating the Chaffee Park and Regis neighborhoods from the rest of northwest Denver.

A Neighborhood on the Brink

Property values are way up in the Sunnyside neighborhood.

Median home prices stood at about $407,000 in September, up 8.5 percent since the same month in 2015.

Rents follow the typical trend in Denver, with a median rate of $2,100 for all size properties, according to real estate website

Sunnyside residents are expecting big things with the coming opening of the 41st & Fox station, part of of the Regional Transportation District's (RTD) newest rail line.

The line, called the G Line, will open this fall and will connect RTD's rail transit network to Wheat Ridge and Arvada.

The 41st & Fox station will be located in the Globeville neighborhood near the easternmost border of Sunnyside, and will likely spur development nearby.

Once filled with run-down taverns and auto repair shops, Sunnyside is starting to revitalize as new buildings are renovated or replaced and coffee shops and breweries pop up.

Recently, local chain Common Grounds Coffehouse transformed their original roastery in Sunnyside to a full-service coffee shop with patio, and you can see them sorting the beans right in the dining room.

Some prominent Denver figures, such as restauranteur Jesse Morreale, are also looking to kick up eatery and store openings along the busy 38th Avenue corridor on the southern end of the neighborhood, which is still largely undefined.

In the meantime, Sunnyside still has its fair share of spots to grab a bite.

The Universal, at 2911 W. 38th Ave., is known for serving "inventive" breakfasts and rotating grits specials.

And of course, Lou's Food Bar, owned by the famous Denver chef Frank Bonanno, is one to visit too. It serves American fare with a "French twist," and has an outdoor patio.

For breakfast, locals often make their way to Sunny's, located at 2339 W. 44th Ave. The menu offers all the morning-food classics, as well as healthier and gluten-free options.

Anytime there's the word "bacon" in the name, we're in. That's the case for Bacon Social House, a newly opened, lively, modern restaurant serving brunch, lunch, dinner and a wide range of craft cocktails.

There's also several craft breweries in Sunnyside, such as the Diebolt Brewing Co. and Factotum Brewhouse, as well as the Denver Beer Co.'s Canworks packaging facility (yes, you can do tours...with beer).

Besides food, Diz's Daisies is the perfect spot to find a creative flower arrangement for a loved one. Plus, 5280 Magazine picked the shop (at 2709 W. 38th Ave.) as among its "Top of the Town" list for 2015.

Sub Rosa Mercantile, a unique "minimalistic" boutique at 2337 W. 44th Ave, is also a fun place to shop.

Local dive Chubby's Original Mexican Food has been serving take-out for decades - and is building a new eatery right behind it's original location.

Sunnyside has a few large parks, including Columbus Park, Ciancio Park, Chaffee Park and the Pecos & 46th Park, all places families can bring the kids, enjoy some shade or have a picnic. 

In fact, all of the homes in Sunnyside are within a half a mile of a park! 


Copyright 2016 KUSA


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment