Council Member Kendra Black Wants Her Car-Dominated District to Become a Place for People

Black is putting on a 12-hour festival called South By Southeast — sort of a civic take on Austin's South By Southwest — that she hopes will galvanize residents to shape the district into a more people-oriented place.

Alex Katz/Bearded Wanderer Media.
Alex Katz/Bearded Wanderer Media.

The wide streets and two freeways that cut through City Council Member Kendra Black’s southeast Denver district make it one of the most car-centric areas in the city. Where speedy surface highways don’t dominate, a meandering, suburban street grid does, lined with sidewalks that are often too thin to walk with someone side by side.

Black is putting on a 12-hour festival called South By Southeast — sort of a civic take on Austin’s South By Southwest — that she hopes will galvanize residents to shape the district into a more people-oriented place. The “people-powered demonstration” happens Saturday at Bible Park from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s the next step in a district-focused “visioning” process that began in 2016, which prompted the creation of several volunteer committees, including a group focused on mobility and streetscaping projects.

“Car-centric corridors and fast casual chain restaurants dominate southeast Denver,” Black says. “While the rest of Denver is experiencing exciting development, safer and improved streets, and bustling new gathering places, Council District 4 is often left out of the conversation.”

Black has to deal with the effects of I-25, I-225, and the infamously unwalkable Hampden Boulevard. She says her district lacks a main street in part because it grew up around the automobile. Southeast Denver thrived during the suburbanization of metro areas, but that automobile era left District 4 with a severe hangover in the form of sprawl.

“We have so many tire stores, so many parking lots,” she laments.

But Black also has four RTD light rail stations in her district — five if you include Dayton Station, which serves her constituents but technically sits in Greenwood Village. These are assets that should anchor car-free places for people and streets that prioritize transit, walking, and biking before cars. But they don’t. They’re squandered opportunities for transit-oriented development.

Take Thomas Jefferson High School, which is hemmed in by Hampden to the north and I-25 to the east. The Southmoor RTD station is nearby, but “kids have to walk so far” to get there, Black says. “It should be easy for kids to walk to school.”

Black has lobbied CDOT for pedestrian upgrades for Hampden, including crosswalks and traffic-calming, and she says the agency is willing. Her district will receive $5 million for the project should Denver voters approve the November bond measure.

  • Mike McDaniel

    There would be more money for her district if she did not vote to spend so much on tearing up City Park, digging a Superfund site for new privately owned toll lanes, and turning DIA into a shopping mall. I think she probably lives in the neighborhood she deserves.

    • TakeFive

      Would you settle for “privately managed” toll lanes? Ownership? Nah, not a chance.
      FYI, Denver International Airport (DEN) is a self-funded enterprise and one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure in the city or whole metro area.
      So far as enjoying letting neighborhoods flood, suit yourself. Myself, I have a high regard for the professionals that help run and determine what is best for Denver.

      • Mike McDaniel

        You trust them because you’re not paying attention. Platte to Park Hill is about digging up a Superfund site to add a toll lane that benefits a corporation. The ridiculous DIA project is about a billion dollar gift to a corporation.

        Neither solves any of the many challenges faced by the people of Denver, or Colorado.

        If you want to know what’s right follow the votes of Kashmann and Espinoza.

        • TakeFive

          What’s interesting by comparison is that in Phoenix ADOT is currently building a new 22-mile bypass freeway that will open in 2020 as an eight lane road with no toll lanes. In fact there isn’t a toll lane anywhere in Phoenix metro area. My ONLY point is that ADOT is well funded and CDOT is poorly funded. In order for CDOT to accomplish building projects they need to use a P3. There are additional benefits though as the private partner will be responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep.

          You can’t judge the DIA plan from headlines. The Ferrovial group is to put up about $170 million and the agreement is structured to guarantee at least a 4.8% return and if they do well their return might approach or exceed 10% – which also will benefit DIA as they’re splitting the retail revenues. The spread or premium for DIA is about 1% over just bonding the whole project on their own. Meanwhile they can now use the $170 million for other purposes.

          Espinoza seems to always vote as a good NIMBY should. Sometimes that may be appropriate; other times not so much.

  • TakeFive

    There’s going to be a bike trail built underneath Hampden Ave at Colorado Blvd as a part of the High Line Canal Trail. I was guessing that a part of the $5 million was for that. Don’t recall all the details but I believe Denver, Arapahoe Co and Cherry Hills are all chipping in along with CDOT.

    There should be BRT from the Southmoor Station east along Hampden Ave to Tamarac Dr and then Enhanced bus service all the way around and up Havana to Colfax.There should also be enhanced bus service from Colfax along So Quebec to Tamarac Dr/DTC Blvd. and loop around from Belleview.

  • Bernard Finucane

    What neighborhoods like these need is people who really like standing around in parking lots.

  • EMB

    A bit late, but I attended this event and put in a few comments about pedestrian and bicycle access in the area. I work in this district and cross Hampden at least twice a day on bike, train, or bus, so I definitely have opinions!

    One bright spot in District 4 is the new bike lanes on Tamarac-Quebec and Union Ave. They’re not perfect, especially leading up to major intersections, but that they’re buffered for most of their length is a huge improvement. They need sweeping more often than the current monthly schedule provides, and the part of Tamarac between Hampden and Quincy really needs the street parking moved or removed, but it’s a huge improvement.

    The issue I was told had the most comments was, predictably, the Bible Park bridge closures. (What with the event being held there and all.) It’s ridiculous that there’s nothing we can do about that on a shorter timeline.

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