Hip find Five Points, at a cost
June 9, 2007
Ask most Denverites where Five Points is and they'll tell you it's the relatively small neighborhood northeast of downtown where Welton, Washington and 27th streets and East 26th Avenue converge.
Ask the same of Bob McCowin, a geographic information systems analyst for the city, and he'll describe a large, irregularly-shaped area that encompasses not only historic Five Points but also niche neighborhoods such as Curtis Park and San Rafael.
Relatively speaking, Five Points' wide, sometimes jagged boundaries touch Globeville and Swansea to the north; Cole, Whittier and City Park West to the east; North Capitol Hill and the Central Business District to the south; and Union Station and Highland to the west.
Unlike many neighborhood borders, Five Points "is definitely not square," McCowin said.
More to the point, it's hip and is becoming more so as time goes by.
"The benefits of Five Points are that we're close to everything. Sports venues, shopping, restaurants and hospitals are all close by," said Jerry Duran, a Whittier neighborhood transplant who moved to Five Points about two years ago.
Young, white professionals, single and with families, are flocking to the neighborhood in record numbers. According to Trulia.com, the average sales price of homes in Five Points jumped 36.6 percent between October to December 2001 and October to December 2006. As of May 16, the average listing price was $370,565, just $9,546 less than the average of all Denver neighborhoods combined.
The influx of new residents is creating a significant transformation in Historic Five Points. Throughout much of Denver's history, the area offered refuge to African-Americans who, due to informal segregation and restrictive housing covenants, were prohibited from living or socializing in other parts of the city.
"Five Points was the financial and spiritual hub of the black community for many years," said John McBride, chairman of the Points Historic Redevelopment Corporation.
"One of the beauties of the neighborhood used to be its economic diversity.
"You had the doctor living next door to the garbage collector living next door to the postal employee, so you had a whole mixture of economic classes."
Today, Five Points is more diverse ethnically and less diverse economically. According to the 2000 census, African-Americans accounted for less than 26 percent of the Five Points population, while Latinos and Caucasians comprised more than 70 percent of those living in the area.
While the transformation may be good for those looking to move to an upscale
neighborhood close to downtown, some worry current Five Points residents may be left in the cold.
"We did a map showing the number of households that had incomes over $100,000 in 1990," said Robin Kniech, program director for the Front Range Economic Strategy Center. "There are eight little red dots. If you look at a similar map for 2000, there are a whole lot more.
"Our position is that it's not bad to have high-income households, but we haven't raised the incomes of the people who used to live there. We've just kind of moved them out."
Changes, old challenges
As a result, Five Points is fast becoming an enclave for the wealthy. Even middle-class homebuyers may find a purchase in Five Points difficult.
"Any vacant property that's available is being scooped up and developed and either townhomes or apartments or condos are being placed there. What I see is that Five Points is not going to have affordable housing," Duran said. "I see homes priced anywhere from $300,000 to $700,000 which, to me, is not affordable."
McBride said his group wants to work with developers to redefine what affordable means, but in the interim, many first-time homebuyers have to look elsewhere for their chance at the American Dream.
"In Five Points, you can't get anything under $200,000 other than an extreme fixer-upper," said Christine Barton, a real estate agent for HQ Homes. "For properties that are finished and ready to move in, you're really looking at quite a high fee of $300,000 or more."
For all of its high-life aspirations, transformation of Five Points will likely take some time.
Although crime in Five Points decreased markedly in the past two years, the stigma of a dangerous, inner-city neighborhood still lingers. The large number of empty, boarded-up businesses along the Welton Street corridor provides an even greater challenge.
"Those properties are owned by several people," said Karen Brown-Gerdine, president of the Five Points Historic Association. "Unless they all collectively want to sell, move or deal, it pre-empts you from doing any major development."
Carla Madison, elected last week to the District 8 City Council seat, said she wants to make it "economically uncomfortable" for people to let buildings fall into disrepair.
Rather than exercising eminent domain and taking the property, which some Five Points residents advocate, Madison wants the city to take a stronger stance on enforcing code regulations.
"Right now, all an owner has to do is keep an empty building boarded up and supposedly keep down the weeds," she said.
Enhancing Five Points' public schools is another issue that needs to be addressed.
"The majority of schools in District 8 are low-performing," said Sharon Bailey, who was Madison's opponent for the District 8 seat. "We're really going to have to work with DPS (Denver Public Schools) and see what we can do as a community to boost achievement."
Bailey also feels strongly about keeping Five Points residents involved as RTD considers replacing Welton Street's light-rail line with trolley cars as it reconfigures the light-rail line that will run from Union Station to Denver International Airport.
"They've just begun to lay those plans on the table," Bailey said. "What I would hope we could do is make sure there is connectivity to Civic Center and downtown."
About Five Points
Location: The large, irregularly-shaped area begins where Welton, Washington and 27th streets join with East 26th Avenue
Who's moving in: Young professionals and families, mostly high-income
Price per square foot: $237
Main attractions: Brother Jeff's Cultural Center, Crossroads at Five Points Theatre, Rossonian Hotel, Black American West Museum, Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, annual Juneteenth celebration, Five Points cultural history mural
Common complaints: Dilapidated buildings, parking for evening events, crime
Elementary schools: Whittier, Gilpin, Mitchell, Wyatt-Edison
Shopping: Minerva's Hat Palace, Akente Express
Eateries: Blackberries Ice Cream, Ethel's House of Soul, Tom's Home Cookin'
What you may not know: The District 3 fire station in Five Points was the
first in Denver to allow black firefighters.