The Speed of Destruction and “Progress”
Posted on April 6, 2018
As I write this, I sit surrounded by the hum of economic activity. In the lot on the south side, a 1950 style house is being torn down and to the north, a new townhome project is under construction. I live in an area of Denver in transition. It is impossible to find a block in my neighborhood where older houses aren’t being demolished for larger more modern homes, duplexes, and townhomes.
Some of these houses have seen better days, others (like the one that existed in the lot south of us until today) was a perfectly good brick home with a big backyard and large front porch. The lot where the remnants of this home now stand will quickly transform into six or seven townhomes. As with all change, I feel mixed about this “progress.”
On a positive note, increasing the number of homes in Denver is a good thing. We are in a terrible housing crisis and increasing the number of housing units help people find homes in our crazy market. Most homes don’t spend more than a day or two on the market before a sold sign goes above it. Townhomes and duplexes (so you get the right picture, the cheapest townhome on my block now goes for $750,000!) are more energy efficient, and with a growing population, our cool artist street gets excellent new restaurants and bars. So, progress is good.
But we lose something with every house like that one (I just checked) that no longer exists to the south. The history of this area has always been in flux with different groups calling it home over the last several decades. Once a somewhat affordable area with easy access to downtown now boasts an average rent of around $2,500 a month. With this “progress” minorities and working-class folks move out. The lucky ones (homeowners) might make several hundred thousand in the move, while the renters are pushed out with little to show.
Gentrification is an odd process to watch unfold outside your window. We are losing our diversity not just of race but class. My neighborhood (and so much of Denver) is white, progressive professionals. In my neighborhood and many like them in Denver, “Make America Great Again” hats are about as rare as those living in poverty or those whose English isn’t perfect. The crime rate is low, the creativity is high, the food and beer are fantastic, the progressive views about pretty much everything is nice, and our property’s increasing value puts a smile on my face. Yet, who are we as a city or country when everyone feels, looks, and thinks a specific way?
Traveling around the country, I know some areas would love to experience even a fraction of Denver’s prosperity and growth. Even in this amazing town with our mountain views, legalized pot, amazing microbreweries, distilleries, and close to perfect weather, I’m afraid we are losing something – even in our “artist district” as those, who do not fit a particular income level, are forced out economically. Is it prosperity if it only looks and thinks a specific way? Or, like the house next door that is no longer there, do we destroy the things that make us a community when we all start to look, think, and live in places that all look the same.