“Carolyn Chavez has called Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood home for 66 years.
It’s where she raised six children, and eventually, five of her 10 grandchildren. For decades, she watched friends and family move elsewhere; neighborhood children go off to college or fall into the grips of addiction. She was there when the new Mile High Stadium opened in Sun Valley in 2001 and when the last nearby grocery store closed in 2011. Twice, she moved away, but always felt pulled to come back.
“I’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly,” Chavez said, as she sat in a metal chair outside her home in a 10-block area of subsidized public housing.
As millions of development dollars flood into Denver’s poorest neighborhood, Chavez and other Sun Valley residents are about to witness the neighborhood’s most profound transformation yet.
A six-phase public housing initiative is slated to redevelop 333 existing units as well as add 417 new, mixed-income ones. And that’s just for starters. Not far away, Meow Wolf, a 90,000-square-foot interactive art exhibit, is planned to open in 2020 and is expected to attract an estimated 1.5 million visitors annually. And perhaps more significant, a $351 million, 52-acre entertainment district has been proposed on the outskirts of Broncos Stadium at Mile High, less than half a mile from Chavez’s doorstep.
“It’s going to be a big change for me,” Chavez said. “I have a feeling I’m gonna kick the bucket when all this stuff is done.”
Since the Denver Housing Authority owns most of the neighborhood’s housing, city officials said Sun Valley could be the model for development without displacement. However, some experts and residents, like Chavez, remain wary that gentrification is on the horizon.
“To me, it’s just moneymaking. That’s all,” said Chavez, who served on the Sun Valley Resident Council for three terms in the late 1970s. “They’re not thinking of the people. It’s all about them getting their property, their money.””
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Clark, Amanda and Shannon Mullane. The Colorado Sun 5 February 2019.