While Denver has large, citywide plans including Blueprint Denver and the Comprehensive Plan 2040, the Community Planning and Development Department also spearheads smaller local plans with support from district city council offices and community groups. Neighborhood Planning Initiatives (NPI) allow the city to work with the community in several neighborhoods at once. The city also has small area plans that focus on large single efforts (such as the stadium district), so you might see that term used sometimes as well, but they are different.
While the West Area Plan is finishing soon, the Near Northwest Area Plan (you could call it NNAP but it’s more exciting than that sounds) is just about to start. It includes the Chaffee Park, Sunnyside, Highland, and Jefferson Park neighborhoods; residents in those neighborhoods are invited to help shape the future of the communities.
These community-focused efforts are a chance to incorporate zoning, transportation, residential, and business efforts together to create tangible plans for small sections of the community. Now is also one of the best times for residents to engage because your input will have long lasting effects on your community. We asked Councilwoman Sandoval and neighborhood organizations what they wanted to see out of the process and what some of their priorities were.
“The neighborhood planning initiative is an incredible opportunity to have a direct role in shaping the future of your community,” said Councilwoman Sandoval. “We hope that this experience leaves everyone feeling empowered and connected to their City and neighbors more than ever before. We are so excited to support the community as they create their vision for the next 20 years.”
James Berezniak, Co-Chair of Planning and Community Development for Sunnyside United Neighbors, said his group is working to ensure representation from people across the neighborhood, wanting to make sure areas like Quigg Newton public housing are represented alongside the wealthier areas. “We want the process to be a collaboration with residents and businesses,” said Berezniak. He’s asking for residents interested in being involved to reach out. With the recent growth on the eastern side of the neighborhood near the new 41st and Fox St station, including high density growth, he wants to make sure transportation is a priority topic along with commercial zoning, noting the lack of a full grocery store nearby.
Jason Hornyak, head of the Chaffee Park RNO said he’s excited to be able to implement larger plans on a smaller scale. A supporter of plans like Blueprint, he noted that they need to be brought to a smaller scale — it’s not enough to say the city needs a large scale rapid transit plan — these small plans can be used to create rapid transit on a specific street. He’s concerned, however, that without enough focus, the city could backtrack on existing plans: “It feels like only yesterday that we spent several years working on the Denveright plan, and now we are on the verge of spending several more years relitigating it,” said Hornyak. “Since this is the process that has been decided, my hope is that everybody keeps in mind that what we do locally affects the city as a whole. What we allow, or more importantly DO NOT allow in our neighborhoods has an impact outside of our boundaries. Each of our neighborhoods is a patch in a greater quilt, and we need to make sure that these patches complement each other cohesively. This plan isn’t only about our 4 neighborhoods, but how the NNW fits into the city as a whole.”
Tom Strobel, board member with Highland United Neighbors, echoed his counterparts’ desire for more community input. “If the process begins unbeknownst to people who really care about the community and the process results in decisions getting made without all interested parties being involved, then the process gets compromised from the beginning and the legitimacy of the effort starts to erode.” Strobel said they are also focused on diversifying representation by also including renters who are often not part of these conversations, people of all economic backgrounds, and those who are at risk of being pushed out from further gentrification.
While more details on the Near Northwest Area Plan’s steering committee and other partners are coming soon, community members are encouraged to sign up for updates on the city website and reach out to their council office, RNO, or other community organization now to get involved.
If the message hasn’t been clear enough, if you’re a resident of these communities this is your chance to weigh in on the future of these four neighborhoods before others make the decisions for you. The Denver North Star will also be providing updates on the West Area Plan (including the West Colfax corridor) in our next issue and will be following the city’s planning efforts in other North Denver communities as they begin as well.
Want to get involved?
Near Northwest Area Plan Page (with email and survey signups):
Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval: