DENVER • Mom loved, and loved is the right word, our Denver neighborhood dominated by 1930s Arts and Crafts bungalows.
Her 2,500-square-foot brick home, two blocks from sprawling Washington Park, reminded her of the house where she was born on the Texas prairie. Nearly every other house resembled our house, giving the neighborhood a consistent, understated, soothing feel.
Please imagine my mother’s outrage when, in 1992, a developer ripped down a bungalow a block from her home and constructed a 7,261-square-foot mansion. On later walks through the neighborhood, mom always stopped for a long and scornful gaze at the invasive monster.
“I despise that house,” mom said, elongating each word in her West Texas drawl.
I was thinking about mom last month while walking through the old neighborhood, which has a decidedly 2019 feel. Every time I return to look at mom’s house, there’s the startling sight of a new empty lot in the neighborhood. Developers buy a lot for a million, or two, rip down the dwelling and pollute the past with a brand-new mansion.
This is the trend in many Denver neighborhoods. For 16 seasons, I covered the Broncos for The Gazette and for each game drove the same route to Mile High. This season, I turned the corner at Irving and 20th and was certain I had somehow gotten lost. For years, the same modest, century-old homes greeted me on 20th Street. On this September day, a slew of freshly constructed condos performed the greeting.
I was on the right street. From January, when one Broncos season ended, to September, when another season began, 20th street had utterly transformed. The past was, yet again, gone.
This tearing down of the past, I’m told, is progress. This tearing down has been the norm in Denver for 30 years.
Is the teardown trend heading our way? Is the past in peril in Colorado Springs?
I ate dinner last week with friends from Wisconsin, and they raved about Colorado Springs. The scenery. The Incline. The weather. (They escaped a few hours before Saturday’s snowstorm.)
My friends said throngs of young people in Wisconsin all seek the same thing:
To live in Colorado. Some of the throng will arrive in our city.
The Springs has long served as the somewhat sleepy little sibling of Denver. If you think this is a knock on the Springs, please realize it’s not. Relaxing is superior to racing.
I believe we’re nearing the end of that era. The Front Range population explosion is ever more fully headed our way, and this wave will carry a long list of benefits for those fortunate enough to dwell here. Soaring prices for our homes. An expanding arts scene. A more diverse range of restaurants.
But there’s peril, too. More traffic. More hassles. More racing. Less relaxation.
Venerable Springs neighborhoods blessed with a consistent feel will be threatened by the same teardowns that transformed my old Denver neighborhood, a transformation that left mom with a serious case of the blues.
Don’t get me wrong. Denver was, and is, a great American city. My hometown blazes with energy, with a revived downtown and a light rail system that covers a vast expanse of the metro area.
Rough neighborhoods that seemed doomed to remain forever fallen are thriving (with mind-boggling housing prices.)
Leaders in Denver did much right.
But mistakes were mixed in there, too. Those leaders failed to show enough care. At times, they rampaged into the future with no mind for precious slices of the past.
I’m with mom. Tearing down our heritage is a mistake, in Denver or the Springs. Old belongs beside old.