Old Denver vs. New Denver: Natives lament change as they seek opportunities elsewhere

Posted at 4:03 PM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-10 21:06:10-04

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DENVER -- As part of our 360 commitment, we are listening to you and sharing multiple perspectives on complex stories.

You had plenty to say about last week's story on Colorado newcomers changing our state.

Meanwhile, one Denver native is comparing Old Denver and New Denver as he prepares for a move to Mexico.

It's the end of an era for Denver and for Denver entrepreneur Dan Landes. 

"It was a pretty great era, too," said Landes, who started the restaurants Watercourse Foods, City O' City and Make, Believe bakery, which are now Denver icons. "Back in 1998, it cost me $30,000 to open Watercourse."

Now, he writes in an article in Westword that even if you add another zero to that, you’re still far short of what it takes to open a restaurant in this town.

"And that kind of takes young entrepreneurs out of the picture," he said, describing this as "luxury Denver." 

"When I opened my restaurants, there wasn't online reviews and there wasn't this demand for immediate gratification. There was patience and time and celebration of something unique."

Growing up, he remembers more snow, rowdier Broncos fans and cheap housing and warehouses for creatives like him.

Now, it's talk of Shake Shack and In-N-Out Burger, and he recently found himself ordering ceviche at a Broncos game (a far cry from the fights and craziness in the south stands when he attended the games with his grandfather as a child.)

"Denver culture, as I experienced it, was something that I really loved," he said. "But I see the growth and the outside influences bringing in these ideas from other locales and it's sort of like, 'where did Denver go?'"

He is not alone in mourning the change.

Nick, who is signing off as a fourth generation Colorado native posted on Denver7's Facebook page about the newcomers, stating, "I hope one of them buys my house when I put it up for sale… the money I make will set me up good in the state I am moving to."

He posted that he believes newcomers have benefits, but "with more people come more traffic and more roadside trash. It's like Colorado either didn't realize or doesn't care that its streets and interstates are falling apart and covered in garbage."

Newcomers stood up for themselves, one transplant wrote: "Go back where you came from" y'all, I moved here from IOWA you couldn't pay me to go back. lol"

Meanwhile, Landes has no problem with the newcomers, but he wants something new, too.

"I want to solve a new set of problems," he said. He has sold his restaurants, and he is packing up his family in the van he is converting into an 'off-grid living system.'

They will travel for a few months, and then he is moving to Mexico, where he owns a hostel.

"I feel like I'm leaving Denver better than I found it, and that's success for me," said Landes. "It's time to go on another adventure."