East Colfax and nearby Aurora residents protest luxury condo development


“Many cultures, one voice,” chanted residents in English, Spanish, Burmese and Karen on Oct. 15 during a protest at New Freedom Park that later moved through the East Colfax neighborhood. This area and parts of northwest Aurora are populated by a low-income, refugee, and immigrant community that depends on affordable housing.

Residents were protesting a condominium development called Ambience, which is expected to begin construction soon on the southeast corner of Yosemite Street and East 14th Avenue on the outskirts of Aurora. The project provides 44 luxury condos with prices starting at $600,000… and no affordable housing.

The project was presented to the Aurora Planning and Zoning Commission on April 13 by developer Aman Kochhar, who lives in Aurora, and Paul Brady of Godden/Sudik architects. However, many residents spoke in opposition at the meeting, saying they feared the property would damage the character of the neighborhood and lead to gentrification. Even so, Commissioner Robert Gaiser introduced a motion to approve the plan, which passed unanimously. Gaiser “has been working on housing authorities for fifteen years”, the minutes of meetings state, “and supports affordable housing, but clarified that it is not the responsibility of the Planning and Zoning Commission to establish policy for affordable housing.”

Since council approved the project, organizations like the East Colfax Community Collective and the East Colfax Neighborhood Association have met with the Planning and Zoning Commission to better understand the approval process and see what their options might be; they designed the October 15 protest to draw attention to their position.

“I came to the United States on September 20, 2007 and have lived in East Colfax for fifteen years,” Say Ra Sein, a Thai refugee, told Karen at the event. “Right now, with the developers building the big buildings, I’m scared of what my future will look like and I’m scared for my people.”

As Ambience will be right in front of her house, she fears that her rent will increase. For the past few years, his rent had stayed around $900, but it has been rising. The average rent in East Colfax is currently $1,110.

Ah Nyo, a refugee who arrived from Thailand in 2008, said even now her rent is not affordable and she often asks different organizations for help. She appreciates the East Colfax community and how everyone is willing to help each other, she added; she fears that development will put an end to it.

“All the people who live in this neighborhood are already struggling with rent prices as they are,” said
Bruno Tapia, organizer of the Socialism and Liberation Party. “We want to let the Aurora Planning Commission and developer Aman Kochhar know that we are against development in our neighborhood. The community was not considered when planning this development, and it is not is not the first nor the last they will hear from us.”

Click to enlarge

Protesters held this sign during speeches on October 15.

Westword

Kelsey Medina, program manager for Jesus on Colfax, a volunteer organization that unites people in prayer by knocking on doors around Colfax, said area residents want Aurora city officials to work with locals. developers to follow the Aurora Strategic Housing Planwhich is designed to help underserved residents.

On December 21, 2020, the Aurora City Council approved policy recommendations for the plan, including piloting more projects to meet community housing needs and preserving already existing affordable housing so people can stay home. But locals feel the city is now ignoring those recommendations.

While Michael Brannen, senior media relations strategist for Aurora, says city employees can’t comment on the project outside of public meetings, protesters had no such restrictions.

“It seems obvious that our city does not have a clear executable plan for the housing crisis in Northern Aurora, but instead shows its disregard for the livelihoods of others through no camping, gentrification, displacement and endorsement of overpriced luxury units against community needs,” Medina said. at the demonstration.

“I think people were drawn to Aurora because it’s a multicultural center where people can have a community with people from their home country, where you can find other people who speak your language, and because for a long time it was more affordable than Denver,” Tapia added. “While there are obviously issues that are not important in the community – there is crime and there are certainly issues of decay – it is because of a lack of investment from the city in the community, it’s not because of a lack of luxury development.

“The development of luxury is not going to solve the problems that this community faces,” he concluded. “Only people-centered development will solve this problem.”

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