Rafael Espinoza and Jason Hornyak
It’s hard to miss the major construction of the CVS pharmacy on the busy corner of Sheridan and West 38th Avenue where a boat-selling business once stood. Besides the new pharmacy, you may have noticed a sign that CVS had built and installed, at the request of some long time North Side community advocates, on the corner that reads, “Welcome to North Denver.”
This is the first sign we’ve ever had to mark one of the boundaries of our enclave within Denver that has been historically known as North Denver.
What’s really in a name, after all? The name of a person, a brand, a company, or a community is an identity, a form of recognition, a way of identifying something that might otherwise look somewhat common if not for the name and the identity associated with that name.
What do you think of when you hear “North Denver?” If you’re not familiar with the city, you might think that the label of North Denver is just some vague reference to anywhere north of downtown up I-25 to some undefined spot on the map. And what do you think of when you hear the Highlands? Or RiNo, LoDo, and a host of other areas within areas that are developing their own personalities as they strive to somehow stand out from the rest of the crowd?
The changing names – actually the growing number of names – mark not only specific areas, but the type of progress we have undergone and the richness and complexity that have developed in the fabric of the city.
Some might argue that a community sheds its identity when it changes its name. Here in North Denver, I would argue that it does not. In fact, I think that the name changes we’ve seen in District One in recent years have deepened the identity of not only branded enclaves like LoHi or SloHi, but of North Denver as a whole. We might cling to the name of a place because of the memories it brings up, or the nostalgia it inspires, but change, as we all know, is inevitable and non-linear. Progress, technology, an expanding population, demographic changes, and the feeling you get by living in or visiting a specific community will undoubtedly morph over time. While change is sometimes looked at dubiously, it is also exciting and empowering.
Why do we create communities in the first place? As human beings, we don’t thrive in chaos or being out of control, thus we create a community to control that chaos, to establish norms and boundaries of behavior. We are the world’s most populous social creatures with a strong desire to be part of something larger than ourselves; we like to feel that we belong with others and to a certain place, whether that feeling is based on a certain type of identity, a set of values, or a specific passion. Whatever the basis of our communities, as part of our ongoing drive for organization we name them to be identifiable and to organize.
Look at what has happened in North Denver since it was established as an alternative to the towns of Denver and Auraria. For its entire history, North Denver has had varying reputations, from glamorous to notorious, and everything between. For generations, the Highlands of Denver have been known as a desirable location of the city in which to live, with or without trendy marketing. When reinvestment began slowly in the late 1990s, yet another demographic shift began, still North Denver remains a fantastic blend of unique shops and locally-run restaurants on every commercial street. Both residential and commercial construction continue apace because North Denver isn’t just one of the best places in Denver to live, but in large part because its North Denver and its nine historically strong statistical neighborhoods (formally recognized by the City in the 1970s) Inspiration Point, Regis, Chaffee Park, Sunnyside, Berkeley, West Highlands, Highland, Jefferson Park, and Sloans Lake, and many identifiable enclaves within, however impermanent.
The establishing of unique areas within North Denver is not new to North Denver and will continue as Denver evolves. However, our awareness of how truly special our enclaves are to the tapestry of not only our own communities will continue to establish North Denver as a vital and vibrant part of Denver as a city. So, whether you have been here for generations, or just arriving, Welcome to North Denver
This is a repository of articles by CM Espinoza. For day-to-day information and press releases please follow the CD1 Office on Facebook.