Having Your Cake And Eating It: Can Denver Neighborhood Character Coexist With Affordability?

RiNo photo by Paul Sableman is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Once the heart of industrial Denver, now the River North Artists District (RiNo).

‘Neighborhood character’ is one of the most powerful NIMBY weapons that can be aimed at affordable housing. The neighborhood itself has a superficial existence in the eyes of all beholders, rich and poor, white, black or brown, passers-by or long term residents. But for many current residents, the character of the neighborhood is a historic evolutionary space with an apex of civilization at the moment of now. From a NIMBY perspective, anything that pulls the neighborhood character away from that rich and fulfilling now-ness must be challenged and resisted, tooth and nail.

It’s fascinating then, to consider the possibilities of housing development in a community of artists — a class of residents who do not see character as a moment of perfection that coincidentally has just arrived, but whose perception of the neighborhood embraces a changing character.

Further turning the relationship between character and affordability on its head, artists have most often taken up residence in a neighborhood because of its affordability, something which virtually all have a strong interest in preserving even as the neighborhood moves forward with the times.

Artists in the RiNo district of Denver Colorado have just such a strong interest in both neighborhood character AND affordability, not neighborhood character OR affordability, the NIMBY battleground of a great many other communities which are coming to grips with an affordable housing crisis.

For more on ways that an existing artistic community may provide a more productive and collaborative view of how character and affordability can coexist, read in the Colorado Real Estate Journal:  RiNo: Design Guidelines, Zoning Overlays