One of the last options for getting groceries in Elyria-Swansea is a gas station, and it’s about to check out of the neighborhood, according to The Office of the National Western Center.
The 7-Eleven near East 47th Avenue and Brighton Boulevard is expected to close by the end of next month. The city plans to take over the property the convenience store sits on for the $1.1 billion National Western Center expansion.
Losing a gas station might not be a big deal for most neighborhoods. But in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea where a significant portion of the community is low income and more than a mile from a supermarket, it’s noticeably one less place to access food.
“That’s not acceptable that the 7-Eleven is the grocery store,” said Kelly Leid, executive director of The Office of the National Western Center. “We’re going to need multiple solutions to service those three neighborhoods.”
The Office of the National Western Center is buying about 106 acres of private property in Elyria-Swansea to transform the National Western Complex and Denver Coliseum from the home of a roughly two-week agriculture event complete with professional rodeos, a horse show and a western trade show to a year-round destination and global hub for agriculture and innovation.
The city says it could start tearing down buildings it has acquired, especially along Brighton Boulevard near the 7-Eleven, this fall.
In April, the city purchased the El Duranguense Grocery across the street from 7-Eleven in a $1.8 million deal. The store has since been boarded up. A call to the previous owner of the property at 4701 Brighton Blvd., Arvada-based Elyria Investments LLC, was not immediately returned Thursday.
Rob Mann owns the liquor store west of the closing 7-Eleven. He said he does most of his shopping outside of his neighborhood, but he sees others who are not able to.
“Some people who don’t have a car can’t get to the store,” Mann said. “This neighborhood has always been underserved.”
Leid said his office is working with the Office of Economic Development and the city’s Food System Development Division to address the lack of food options in northeast Denver. The manager of the division, Blake Angelo, is leading the city’s uphill effort to bring a supermarket to the area.
Angelo’s team also provides grants to organizations like GrowHaus that promote healthy eating in the city’s food deserts. Earlier this month, he and the city unveiled a training and mentorship opportunity for early-stage ventures focused on improving access to healthy food across low-income communities in Denver.
“We’ve certainly been in touch with the (7-Eleven) operators regarding what opportunities there might be to relocate in or nearby the neighborhood,” Angelo said. “And we continue to pursue opportunities to attract new operators, both full-service and convenience/corner store operators, to the neighborhood, because we hear about the importance of maintaining and actually expanding healthy food access.”
One of the options The Office of the National Western Center is considering for the renovated complex is a year-round farmer’s market in the historic Stadium Arena at 4655 Humboldt St., Leid said.
“It’s a cool old arena. It would be a really cool market,” he said. “If you’ve been up to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, it would be our version of that.”
The other option for the site is an incubator to help build local businesses.
“I always use the example of the ladies that live in Elyria-Swansea that have a tamale business,” Leid said. “They can have a commercial kitchen in this building where they can grow their business.”
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