By Joel Newton
This past month, the term “gentrification” hit the national news. You might have seen the ink! Coffee sign that read “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.” The New York Times even ran a story on the sign and the uproar that it brought to the neighborhood just north of downtown Denver.
Once again people are discussing the idea of gentrification. One side of the debate speaks of gentrification as a good thing because of the new businesses coming into the area and the redevelopment of rundown properties. The other side of the debate says that gentrification is pushing out long-time residents who are people of color and have lower incomes.
The Business Dictionary defines gentrification as: “The process of wealthier residents moving to an area, and the changes that occur due to the influx of wealth. As wealthier inhabitants move into an area that is already populated with lower-income residents, the neighborhood begins to change as well. Often this will spark an urban renewal process, which cleans up the town, but often leads to an increase in rent, taxes, and other items. Sometimes this change means that the previous residents can no longer afford to live in that neighborhood, which is why gentrification can sometimes be used in a negative context. However, many good changes also historically accompany gentrification, such as decreased crime rates and increased economic activity.”
It seems as though many neighborhoods around Denver are in the midst of this gentrification struggle and Edgewater is not immune.
Since 2011, home prices and rental rates in Edgewater have skyrocketed. The current Zillow Rent Index for Edgewater is $1,963 per month and according to REcolorado, the median home price in Edgewater is now $320,600.
These increases in rent and home values have brought new wealth into our city. Since 2011 new businesses have sprung up in Edgewater to meet this new demographic. A run down liquor store on 25th Avenue became Bottles and Bitters. The vacant pawn shop at 25th and Sheridan became Joyride Brewing Company. A hair salon became Wine Beer Fat. Edgewater Coffee Company became Coda Coffee. Even our McDonalds and Burger King are being remodeled following the remodel of King Soopers.
The next few years will bring even more redevelopment to 20th and Depew as well as the city-owned properties on 25th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard.
Our housing stock around town is also changing. As houses sell new owners come in and scrape houses that were in disrepair especially on the east side of town. Now when you look across Sloan’s Lake at the skyline of Edgewater you can see three story duplexes peaking above the businesses on Sheridan. One-story houses are being replaced by two-story houses to meet the tastes of a new generation.
This rise in housing costs and new business development in Edgewater fits the definition of gentrification. There are many things to celebrate especially if you have owned a home in Edgewater for years and have seen the value of your home increase.
But what are the other costs of this gentrification? Who is being displaced? How will Edgewater change over the next 10 years?
In Edgewater and the surrounding Jefferson County, there are not well established advocacy groups like in Denver for those who are being displaced. As lower-income families and people of color can no longer afford to rent at the Terra Village Apartments on 26th Avenue, they disappear from our city. As Latino families who send their children to our local schools can no longer afford the rents at the duplexes along 20th Avenue, they have to move away.
Who is the voice for the displaced? What is the role of the city government in housing affordability? What will be the racial makeup of Edgewater when the next census occurs in 2020?
In the midst of a booming Edgewater economy, we must continue to ask who is being left behind and what can be done to make sure that they have a pathway to enjoy the same success.