Auraria savior and I-70 opponent John Prosser has died, council says

Early in his career in Denver, Prosser authored a proposal to save parts of the Auraria neighborhood from redevelopment, including the Tivoli brewery.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

John Prosser, an urban planner who for decades shaped Denver and its conversations about development, has died.

Denver City Council members commemorated his passing at their Monday meeting, acknowledging him as a man who fought for his beliefs — including his work against one of the largest and most controversial projects in Denver.

“He was one of the forces behind the drive to reconsider the I-70 route. I just wanted to make note of the Denver area’s loss of one of its major figures in architecture and urban design. He will be missed,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn.

Council President Albus Brooks described Prosser as a “consummate professional and lover of the community,” adding that he’d last seen Prosser planting trees.

Prosser joined CU-Boulder’s architecture school in 1966 and moved to Denver when the program relocated here a few years later, as Patricia Calhoun reported for Westword.

Early in his career in Denver, Prosser authored a proposal to save parts of the Auraria neighborhood from redevelopment, including the Tivoli brewery, which “helped give Auraria much of the character it retains today,” Calhoun wrote.

Prosser saw Denver’s modern rebuilding coming, too. “Believe me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Colorado doesn’t know what density is,” he told The Denver Post in 2001. And he warned that the city wasn’t intellectually ready for that change.

“Despite being pretty urbanized, most of us don’t know how to live in the city. We build farmhouses in the city. We went from 160 acres to a quarter-acre, and we still build the same farmhouse,” he said.

More recently, he played a role in convening neighborhoods in the fight against the I-70 widening, warning recently that the project’s impacts could “erase the present neighborhood characteristic qualities across north Denver from Quebec to Wadsworth.”

He was in his 80s at the time of his death, and he remained a regular at the Butcher Block Cafe in River North, where he sometimes talked about the stunning change he had seen in his city.

Prosser was a professor emeritus. He left warm words for colleagues and students when he retired in 2008.

He wrote: “For everyone I will simply quote a special Irish proverb: ‘May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live’ Cheers!”

Further details of his death were not immediately available.