DENVER — Brighton Boulevard is the spine of one of Denver's most unique neighborhoods.
For years, it was a gritty industrial zone that people drove through to get the stock show.
"Everybody thought it was the dirt bag of the city, and I'll tell you it was not," said Larry Burgess, a long-time property owner.
He said there was less crime on Brighton than on any other commercial street in Denver.
"Nobody kept cash, so there was no reason to come down here and rob anybody," he said.
Of course, it wasn't the easiest neighborhood to get to.
"Brighton Boulevard was a stretch of roadway that had no sidewalks, no bike lanes, no curb and gutter, and no drainage," said Nancy Kuhn of Denver Public Works.
She said the city installed those amenities as the boulevard morphed from its industrial roots to a mixture of high rise apartments, avant-garde hotels, food halls and breweries.
"Brighton is now premier street that is friendlier for businesses," Kuhn said. "You can now get there a variety of ways. You can drive there, you can bike there, you can actually walk along it."
Burgess said he likes the change, but rues the loss of many old buildings.
"Most other people have come in here and wiped them out and started all over again," he said. "I like keeping the buildings."
So he's rebuilding the ones he owns from the inside out, removing columns, re-pouring footing, replacing concrete, walls and roofs.
He said they will essentially be "up-to-code" versions of the originals.
He said he's not in a hurry to get them all done.
"We're not developers. We're family-owned businesses, so we go slower and march to a different drummer than a developer does, primarily because of money," he said.
Burgess said one of his buildings under renovation is already leased out.
"There's a wine tasting shop and a coffee shop going in there," he said, "The other ones have not yet announced."
The property owner told Denver7 that what he is doing is a nod to history and to the work ethic of families that operated industrial shops in the neighborhood for generations.
"The work ethic was for their family and for themselves," he said. "Today, the work ethic of the corporation is different from what I'm expressing there."
Residents believe that what Burgess plans to do will blend in well with the eclectic mix of development that has already taken root.
Colten Janssen said the neighborhood has great character.
"I'll tell you what I like most about this area is just the art culture that's in this area — the graffiti and murals and stuff like that," he said. "It really embraces the art culture of Denver."
The mix of character, business, and new and old are helping make Brighton Boulevard the wonderful gateway to downtown that multiple mayors have envisioned.