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.

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