Arapahoe County residents are concerned about the proposed small Denver community
DENVER — Denver Mayor Mike Johnston wants to house 1,000 people living on Denver’s streets by the end of the year. One of the ways he plans to achieve this is through small communities dotted around the city.
The goal of the communities is to give people the space to live until they find permanent housing. However, one of the proposed sites has neighbors and business owners involved.
5500 E. Yale Avenue is one of the spaces that the city considers a mini-community. The small community uses platform shelters or tiny homes and gives residents access to mental health and substance abuse resources, along with professional support.
“Microcommunities are plots of land about a half-acre or more that can house 40 to 100 residents in shelters or small homes,” says the city’s frequently asked questions page. “Each resident will have their own space with a bed and desk where they can rest and store their belongings. In addition, each microcommunity will have communal spaces that include restrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, and gathering spaces.”
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5500 E. Yale Avenue is located in the southeastern part of Denver and near the Arapahoe County line. Janet Cornell, Tom Maloney, and Tyler Burgett all live near the proposed site, but their homes are in Arapahoe County.
“We’re not the ones who voted for the mayor, and we don’t feel like we have a say,” Cornell said. “We know we need to solve this problem, and we’re doing it. This is not the right site.”
Their concerns range from court cases to pedestrian safety on Yale Street, area emergency services, and proximity to school bus stops.
“In this neighborhood, there’s a disconnect between who’s supposed to answer 911 calls. Is it Denver? Is it Arapahoe County? Is it the sheriff? So, I don’t think those people are going to be properly taken care of here,” Cornell said. It is not safe for our community. It’s not safe for the people who will be here.”
All three have other ideas for locations that can support the small community and still be close.
“There are two open areas that are too close to support right next to the community, and there is space available that can still access nearby services but doesn’t have a lot of litigation questions,” Burgett said. “There are just so many questions in terms of their implementation, how they’re actually going to help people, and what’s going to make this different than just changing someone from living in a tent to living in a different structure.
DJ McDermott and his husband own Timothy D’s Salon, which has operated out of their building at 5500 E. Yale Avenue for more than a decade.
“This is what sustains me and my family,” McDermott said. “I don’t want to sound like an ogre, but this is my livelihood being ripped off.”
McDermott claims he learned the site was being considered for a small community site on August 26. If the proposal becomes reality, he said work should be off the premises by December.
“It’s too much, too fast,” McDermott said. “You don’t sweep into production companies just to solve a problem.”
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At one of his town halls on Tuesday, Johnston said they don’t have a site plan yet. The mayor said they are considering building the small community in the parking lot rather than inside the building.
“There are people in the room who have alternative proposals for ideas. We’re always open to that as well,” Johnston told the crowd. “We’ve heard some concerns about traffic in the aisle. I think we’re looking at a smaller number, like around 100 units, not 200.” “…So this is going to be a smaller site… You want some traffic, so there’s public transportation, but you also want some security. You don’t want people crossing densely populated roads and getting injured.”
According to the city’s mayor’s office, the proposed sites were selected based on the following criteria:
- Proximity to transit
- Access to utilities (electricity and water)
- Meets essential zoning and permitting standards
- Meets basic environmental standards
- Distance from schools
- Fair distribution of sites around the city
The list of sites is expected to change as new sites are discovered. Venues ultimately selected will be staffed around the clock and have a zero-tolerance policy for violence. There will be no sobriety requirement.
The first homes are expected to arrive in November, with the first smaller homes expected in December.
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(marks for translation)5500 E. Yale Ave