When I joined the Cross Community Coalition‘s Environmental Justice tour on February 17, one of the things tour guide Michael Maes stressed was the importance of preserving and increasing housing in these neighborhoods. He said if the brownfields were cleaned up and neighborhoods were properly laid out, Denver could add hundreds more houses without clearing land out on the edges of the city.

Some of the houses we saw on the tour date to the 1880s. Along with Highland(s) and Five Points, the neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea (moving east from the intersection of I-25 and I-70) have some of the oldest housing stock in Denver. The latter three neighborhoods used to be home to 3 smelters; the only one that persisted long into the twentieth century was Asarco. In the 1990s, the Cross Community Coalition pursued a class action suit against Asarco for heavy metal pollution and won monetary damages and an agreement to replace the top 12 inches of soil in any house in Globeville. (I think it was any and all houses, but I may be using too broad a brush here; I know that Elyria and Swansea had some soil cleaned up around houses, but it wasn’t done as extensively in the latter 2 neighborhoods. Those 2 neighborhoods are a Superfund site, VB I-70. VB stands for “Vasquez Boulevard.”)

I asked Michael if there was a scientific basis for replacing only 12 inches of soil, and he said that it was an economic decision. If you clean down to 2 feet, say, you can’t afford to clean up as many yards.

I saw this house early on; it reminded me of houses in Broomfield’s First Filing neighborhood. (Please note all photographs were taken through a bus window. Some are clearer than others.) At the other end of the spectrum are the Globeville Townhomes at 51st and Logan, which were built on remediated land. Most of the townhomes are Section 8 rentals, but 12 units are on sale for up to $193,000. These new townhouses are a few blocks east of I-25, a few blocks north of I-70, and have a rail line running along their eastern edge. Xcel Energy’s Cherokee Station, a coal-fired power plant with the red-and-white smokestack visible from I-25, is located west of York between 58th and 64th.

A woman who works for Habitat for Humanity was on the tour, and she said Habitat had done blower-door tests on a townhouse and found that it wasn’t very energy-efficient. So let’s see: we have townhomes that are built on a brownfield, priced beyond what people in the neighborhood can pay, and not that eco-friendly. It’s not surprising that only 1 unit has sold.

Across the street are the old headquarters for Asarco (the red buildings) and the rail line beyond the 2 fences.

We drove all over north Denver on this tour, and I couldn’t always keep track of where we were going, but this house is located at the corner of St. Paul and 52nd in north Swansea. I’m not sure if it’s a new house or has just been renovated, but it looks pretty nice. Take a look, though, at the bottom left corner: there are no sewers.

Michael Maes stressed that family life was important to people who lived in these neighborhoods and that the neighborhoods are important to the families who live there. Despite the enterprise zone, there’s still lots of housing, and Maes definitely thinks there could be a lot more. Certainly people in Elyria, who are fighting a proposed realignment of I-70 right by Elyria Park (on 48th, between High and Race Streets), would like their housing values to increase (they’ve declined since the plans to realign I-70 were announced).

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  1. […] feel odd writing a review of two restaurants right in the midst of publishing my photos from Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea. I’d like to spend a little more time in those neighborhoods, go to PanaderĂ­a Emmanuel and […]

  2. […] then drove east and north to reach the northern part of Swansea, where I took the picture of the house without sewers featured in Wednesday’s post. Then we ended the tour back at the Cross Community Coalition […]