White privilege and gentrification in Denver, ‘America’s favourite city’

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Downtown Denver
Downtown Denver / © Alamy

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Downtown Denver
Downtown Denver / © Alamy

For the first time in its history, Denver is so desirable that its vast neighbourhoods of bungalows are proving finite. The cost of this growth is the displacement of the city’s remaining working class

Immediately after I parked my car in the Swansea neighbourhood of Denver, Colorado this June, a woman in a white SUV drove by, rolled down her window and yelled: “Not for sale!”

Residents of Swansea, Elyria, and Globeville, the neighbourhoods that make up north-east Denver, are receiving stacks of postcards on their porches with offers to buy their homes. Globeville saw an increase of 67% in median home values in the last year. All three neighbourhoods are dotted with yard signs that read “My community is not for sale / Mi comunidad no está en venta.” What else would a white woman carrying a notebook be doing in the neighbourhood, but speculating?

In her novel Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver describes Denver as having “endless neighbourhoods of sweet old brick houses with peaked roofs and lawns shaded by huge maples.” The Denver of my childhood also had wide boulevards lined with 50s-era filling stations, 60s strip malls, 70s dentists’ offices. Downtown, which had some beautiful, historic stone buildings, also had plentiful surface parking – a sign that the city’s economy had not caught up with the space afforded it. The city was calm; there was a sense of community.

That Denver has now gone. Partially thanks to the work of the Colorado Tourism Board, people from all over are flocking here, and jobs are following. This year, US News and World Report voted Denver the best place to live in America. Half of the cars have out-of-state plates, and the rest have bumper stickers that read “Native-ish”. […]

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