Denver moves ahead on plans to preserve the city's Chicano roots

·2 min read

Denver's La Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood is set to become the first in the city — and one of the only in the U.S. — to formally honor the Chicano movement.

Driving the news: The City Council is expected to approve an ordinance tonight that will designate the Westside neighborhood — one of Denver's oldest — as its second-ever historic cultural district. (Five Points was the first.)

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  • The status is intended to provide stronger development protections for roughly 200 properties in the area, most of which are single-family homes but also include cultural institutions, such as the La Alma Recreation Center.

Why it matters: In a rapidly developing and gentrifying city, the move attempts to serve as an overdue recognition of the city's rich Chicano history and safeguard the markers and murals that remain at the heart of the movement.

  • The neighborhood was home to some of the most influential leaders of the Chicano movement, including Richard Castro and Waldo Benavidez.

What they're saying: "We want to make sure that any new development ... is compatible and contextual to the historic development in the neighborhood" to help preserve the look and feel of buildings in the district, Denver's planning department spokesperson Amanda Weston told Axios.

Yes, but: Although the historic cultural district status would come with custom design guidelines if property owners want to change up external features (like porches, cladding and fencing), no rules would govern improving or restoring property.

What's next: The proposed custom design guidelines will need to be approved and adopted by the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission, Weston said. Once approved, the guidelines will be used to review all proposed projects in the district.

The big picture: Local leaders are in the process of identifying landmarks across the city of significance to the city's Chicano and Latino residents to consider them for historic preservation, including West High School and the Aztlan Theatre.

  • Only about 3% of Denver's roughly 7,000 historic landmarks recognize non-white history, the Denver Post reports.

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