Denver Struggles to Reclaim Civic Center Park

A $15 million investment has so far failed to cleanse Denver's downtown park - part of the city's first National Historic Landmark - of rampant drug use and crime. What more can the city do to speed up change?

Read Time: 1 minute

August 21, 2013, 11:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"Six years ago, Denver went all out to jump-start a Civic Center renaissance, envisioning a manicured green space busy with ordinary people enjoying strolls, brown-bag lunches, after-school soccer games and evening concerts, instead of the transients, hookers and drug dealers who infused the downtown park with a sinister vibe. But despite more than $15 million spent to reclaim the park, the perception of danger has not disappeared," writes Colleen O'Connor.

Although fitness classes, office workers, and food trucks populate the park during the day, fights, shootings, and rampant drug use are also commonplace. But increased policing alone won't solve the park's enduring problems, notes O'Connor. 

"A Civic Center safety summit was convened June 3, with people including representatives from the mayor's office, Denver Environmental Health, Downtown Denver Partnership, the district attorney's office, Denver's Road Home and Denver Human Services," she reports. "The solution, they agreed, must be multifaceted — rooted in seven areas: social services; maintenance; programming of activities; infrastructure; legal enforcement and prosecution; resources; and community and political will."

"'The problems are not solved overnight,' said Charles Birnbaum, founder and president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C., citing such examples as Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. 'This is the story of American parks. Civic Center park hasn't had its renaissance yet.'"


Sunday, August 18, 2013 in The Denver Post

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