Northeast Denver neighbors address growing pains as city changes

'Our Colorado' explores growth in Montbello

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DENVER – People living in Montbello say their neighborhood is misunderstood.

Those who spoke with Denver7 said they don't agree with the perception people have about crime in their community, and instead want Montbello to be known for its history, culture, and commitment to inclusivity.

On Saturday, Denver city leaders and northeast neighbors met at the Montbello Recreation Center to address specific growing pains being felt throughout the area.

Topics included housing stabilization, workforce development, and financial empowerment. Neighbors had the opportunity to ask questions to a panel of city leaders and city employees.

Mayor Michael Hancock and representatives from the city’s Office of Economic Development and Office of Financial Empowerment, joined Montbello neighbors in the discussion.

Erik Penn, who has lived in the northeast Denver neighborhood for about five-years now, said in his short time there, he’s been introduced to the perception that people have about crime in Montbello.

However, Penn said there’s some difficulty in accepting that perception. In fact, in 2017, Realtor.com rated Montbello the hottest housing market in the Metro Area.

Penn asked, “How does the dissonance between those exist?”

It’s people like Penn, living in Montbello, who know it differently.

“We have passionate families who advocate for the education of our children, for healthy living, and for lifestyle changes,” Penn said.

This is Penn’s “Colorado.”

Montbello is just one corner of Denver that, like its counterparts, has seen expensive, expansive and explosive growth. Mayor Michael Hancock used those words to describe changes.

To a crowd of dozens, Mayor Hancock said, “It is confirmed just last month, to me, that Denver has bypassed 700,000 residents.”

Montbello neighbors know many have their eyes set on growing northeast Denver.

“We're seeing a lot of what we consider predatory attacks on families,” Penn said. “Especially our senior citizens and the more vulnerable populations.”

The reality of those hardships isn’t lost on city leaders.

“We've been talking about impending gentrification and involuntary displacement for about two years,” Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore said.

Gilmore added it was in those conversations that two top priorities were uncovered.

Firstly, making sure seniors and those on fixed incomes have the resources to properly navigate increasing property tax. Secondly, establishing financial literacy.

“We need to make sure that our residents understand how to invest their money, how to save up for a first-time home, and really feel like they have the information they need to navigate our changing times,” Gilmore said.

Many on Saturday argued this is the time when assistance is needed most.

As conversations about our changing Colorado continue, the Montbello these neighbors have always known perseveres.

“My Colorado, our Colorado in this area is really about pride and diversity and inclusiveness,” Gilmore said. “I predict that we're going to have many more conversations as we navigate this.”

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