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Denver’s mayoral candidates agree a lot of the city’s new development is ugly

Four candidates in the Denver mayoral race squared off in a debate moderated by Kyle Clark and Marshall Zelinger.

DENVER — The city’s growth in recent years is a key point of discussion for people who live in Denver, so it makes sense it would also be an oft-discussed topic during the 9NEWS mayoral debate.

The one thing the four candidates who participated in the 9NEWS debate agreed on? That it’s fair to call some of the new structures that have littered the city ugly.

The Denver election is on May 7. There are six nonpartisan candidates on the ballot are: community advocate Lisa Calderon, urban planner Jamie Giellis, incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock, activist Kalyn Heffernan, former state representative Penfield Tate, and Stephan Elliot Evans, who is an advocate for the city’s homeless.

In addition to development, Calderon, Giellis, Hancock and Tate shared their views on everything from safe injection sites to homeless sweeps during an hour-long debate moderated by 9NEWS Anchor Kyle Clark and Political Reporter Marshall Zelinger. You can watch their full discussion in the video player above.


Hancock repeatedly cited Denver’s status as a desirable city for reasons he should be reelected – especially after the recession.

“Eight years later, we are arguably the most economically viable city in the country,” Hancock said.

His challengers said there was a caveat.

“It’s clear that the growth that has happened has not been well-managed,” Tate said.

“We’re creating a Denver for the haves and have-nots, those who have access and those who don’t have access,” Calderon said.

“We have made very little moves to create a sustainable city,” Giellis said.

Hancock told his challengers that the pace of the growth has kept the city off guard, but that “I think we responded pretty well.”

One thing the four candidates did agree on? That what some have characterized as “slot homes” that have popped up in the city are ugly – and that yes, it is the mayor’s business.

“We’ve put the impetus on neighborhoods to fight for character themselves when the city should be doing that,” Giellis said.

“I’ve seen some ugly buildings, but I’ve also seen some nice buildings,” Hancock said, adding some of the character issues will be addressed in the 2040 plan.

“The problem we have is not just the pace of our development, but what it does to our communities,” Tate said.

“As a culture professor who teaches history, I think it’s really important that we respect our history,” Calderon said.


While none of the candidates cited specific neighborhoods they feel unsafe in, they did they say likely wouldn’t feel secure walking around Lower Downtown at 2 a.m.

This led to a discussion about homelessness – and specifically, if there are some people who are beyond help. Hancock acknowledged that the city’s homeless population are also constituents, and cited his efforts to connect them with resources.

The sweeps, Hancock said, are a public health issue due to concerns at homeless camps.

He was the only candidate who supported continuing those sweeps.

Giellis said the city needs to continue to invest in services for the chronic homeless. Calderon cited her own experience being homeless herself, as well as work as a direct service provider. Tate said homelessness is his campaign’s top priority.


The four candidates supported Denver’s status as a sanctuary city for immigrants, and Hancock said he would accept people sent to Denver from the border by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Neglected neighborhoods 

Tate, Giellis and Calderon all characterized the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea as the city’s most neglected neighborhoods, citing poor air quality and the impacts of the Central 70 project.

Giellis also cited the Montbello neighborhood.

Hancock mentioned his administration’s efforts in both of these neighborhoods as well as Sun Valley and Westwood in the southwest portion of the state.  

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