Five Points redevelopment plan approved

"Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong. You name the greats - they were here," Tracy Winchester, executive director of the Five Points Business District, said.

The glamorous image of Five Points faded decades ago, and the community has struggled with issues of blight, crime and a negative reputation.

"It became a matter of being part of the inner-city, and everywhere you saw urban decay in the inner city," Winchester said. "And we were no different than the rest of the country."

Those interested in the revival of Five Points have proposed the idea for decades and just got a major victory this month.

"It's a process that has been going on for the past 20 years," Winchester said of the area's redevelopment plan, approved in the Denver City Council's recent meeting. Winchester says the 12-1 vote was a landmark decision in reviving Five Points.

"The City of Denver has put their stamp of approval on this area and said this is a priority for us," she said.

The plan, which was created with the input of residents, includes proposals for shops, restaurants, a new grocery store and a community plaza, among other things. The proposal also includes plans to widen Welton Street from a one-way to a two-way street. It includes a clause envoking eminent domain for the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, which worries residents who are concerned about their land and homes being seized for the project.

Area residents also remain concerned about gentrification, a process in which lower-income, often times minority, residents are "priced out" of their own neighborhoods, once developers begin building new, expensive houses, townhomes and apartments.

Winchester says her committee has formed a team to study those concerns.

"Our nurses, our teachers, our workers are still able to stay in this area," she said.

The changes to Five Points will likely take decades, with incremental changes happening a few years at a time.

"I think you're going to see definite, marked changes in the first five years," said Winchester. "In this particular area, we have 25 percent African American, 25 percent Latino and 50 percent Caucasian that live in this district right now" she said. "So the market is going to have to reflect the desires and tastes of people who live here."

But while the changes include giving Five Points an image that includes being eco-friendly and having healthier food options, Winchester says Colorado's only cultural historic district could never forget its roots.

"Anybody that comes in is going to be able to sell fresh collard greens. I'd love to have organic collard greens," she said while smiling. "I think that could be integrated very easily."


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