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Denver school claims it faces eviction from landlord because of gentrification

Posted: 10:46 PM, Dec 12, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-13 06:05:50Z
THGA school.JPG

DENVER -- Officials at a local private school told Denver7 they're being evicted because of gentrification, but said they have plans to fight the landlord, the Denver Housing Authority (DHA), in court Friday.

DHA claims the school, Tubman Hilliard Global Academy, located in the Five Points neighborhood, is not operating and violating its lease in several ways.

Executive Director Tunta Asega said Tubman Hilliard Global Academy is no exception. Asega's private school, now in its sixth year at that location, focuses on music and art programs for underprivileged students. But that could change, as his landlord, the Denver Housing Authority slapped them with a seven-day eviction notice claiming the school was not operating and subleasing to other tenants, violating its lease.

"This is a classic case of gentrification. We have been around for 25 years serving this community," said Asega.

"We provide an opportunity for the community, students and in this case artists to come together,” said Asega “We've had artists from the local music scene, the local theater scene, come in and volunteer to work with our students and DHA's position is somehow 'they aren’t teachers,' somehow that's not education and somehow we are in violation of our lease."

The school's attorney, Drew Melnick, said DHA wants the school gone for several reasons, including wanting to capitalize on the skyrocketing value of the area.

"DHA believes that the education here does not fit the ideology of what an education is or should be," said Melnick.

DHA sent Denver7 a statement, in part saying, the school acknowledged it wasn’t operating and violated it’s lease in several ways.

The Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver (“DHA”) a quasi-municipal government entity owns the King Trimble Center at 2980 Curtis Street in Denver’s Curtis Park Neighborhood. The King Trimble Center was developed as an affordable and flexible, multi-purpose community serving space for use by community-based non-profit entities.

From 2010 to 2012 the center was leased to the Economic Prosperity Center (“EPC”), which operated self-sufficiency programs in partnership with Rocky Mountain Micro Finance and the Denver Asset Building Coalition, among others.

The Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver (“DHA”) a quasi-municipal government entity owns the King Trimble Center at 2980 Curtis Street in Denver’s Curtis Park Neighborhood. The King Trimble Center was developed as an affordable and flexible, multi-purpose community serving space for use by community-based non-profit entities. From 2010 to 2012 the center was leased to the Economic Prosperity Center (“EPC”), which operated self-sufficiency programs in partnership with Rocky Mountain Micro Finance and the Denver Asset Building Coalition, among others. When the EPC ceased operations in November of 2012, DHA entered into a new lease agreement with the Tubman Hilliard Global Academy (“THGA”). Initially, THGA operated an alternative school licensed by the Colorado Department of Human Services serving children from 5 – 12 years of age. DHA became aware that the school was no longer in operation in the fall of 2017 when we were approached by several community non-profits in search of new space for their educational programs. They had observed that the building had no daily activity and assumed it to be vacant. At that time, DHA also discovered that THGA was in violation of several provisions of their lease. Communication with THGA confirmed that the school was in fact not operating. THGA offered that the school was hoping to reopen by the fall of 2018. DHA allowed THGA to continue working toward a fall 2018 opening while also becoming compliant with their lease. Unfortunately, it is clear that the center continues to be used by outside groups for purposes not expressly agreed to in the lease and without DHA’s approval. As a result, DHA served THGA a notice of lease termination on November 26, 2018. Since then, DHA has met with THGA in an effort to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to allow them to reestablish their educational programming in the King Trimble Center. DHA continues to be approached by community-based non-profit organizations in need of affordable commercial space where they can offer programs and services to residents in and around the Curtis Park neighborhood. We have been approached by charter schools, daycare centers, and performing arts organizations, among others. The goal of DHA is to ensure that King Trimble Center is once again a fully utilized, an active, vibrant and affordable community serving facility operated by community non-profit organizations who serve disadvantaged and low-income residents and members of the community.

When the EPC ceased operations in November of 2012, DHA entered into a new lease agreement with the Tubman Hilliard Global Academy (“THGA”). Initially, THGA operated an alternative school licensed by the Colorado Department of Human Services serving children from 5 – 12 years of age.

DHA became aware that the school was no longer in operation in the fall of 2017 when we were approached by several community non-profits in search of new space for their educational programs. They had observed that the building had no daily activity and assumed it to be vacant. At that time, DHA also discovered that THGA was in violation of several provisions of their lease. Communication with THGA confirmed that the school was in fact not operating. THGA offered that the school was hoping to reopen by the fall of 2018. DHA allowed THGA to continue working toward a fall 2018 opening while also becoming compliant with their lease.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the center continues to be used by outside groups for purposes not expressly agreed to in the lease and without DHA’s approval. As a result, DHA served THGA a notice of lease termination on November 26, 2018. Since then, DHA has met with THGA in an effort to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to allow them to reestablish their educational programming in the King Trimble Center.

DHA continues to be approached by community-based non-profit organizations in need of affordable commercial space where they can offer programs and services to residents in and around the Curtis Park neighborhood. We have been approached by charter schools, daycare centers, and performing arts organizations, among others.

The goal of DHA is to ensure that King Trimble Center is once again a fully utilized, an active, vibrant and affordable community serving facility operated by community non-profit organizations who serve disadvantaged and low-income residents and members of the community.

In court documents obtained by Denver7, DHA claims when they visited on a Tuesday in October, the school was "in general disrepair." DHA representatives claim they found adults using recording equipment in three of the rooms and that they only saw three kids in the building, who were "roaming unsupervised."

A Google search for "Tubman Hilliard Global Academy" pulls up a Facebook page, which hasn't been updated since 2015. In addition, the DHA officials said they never found a web site for the school.

Asega told Denver7 the school is in rebuilding mode, called “Year Zero”, a common foundation building year needed now they have decided to reorganize their programs.

“What you see is fundraising, build-outs for classrooms, hiring of staff. Those are the activities that go on,” said Asega.

Asega said the school currently holds classes and even though there are only 45 students enrolled, they plan to fight for the right to continue to operate.

In a counter complaint , the school claims gentrification is the real issue at hand.

"Gentrification is the issue at hand here. It’s not about whether we are a real school or not, it’s about gentrification," said Asega.