Down in Denver’s southeastern corner, things get a little quieter.
Down here, cars are king. Crosswalks are sparse. It’s a district home to a neighborhood with one of the city’s best NIMBY records.
In other words, welcome to suburbia in the city. The district includes Goldsmith, Hampden, Hampden South, Kennedy, Southmoor Park, University Hills and Wellshire. With a suburban setting come suburban concerns, which incumbent District Councilwoman Kendra Black and challenger Colleen Zahradnicek are all too familiar with inside a district stretched out on the city’s far southeast corner.
Both candidates cited neighborhood planning and zoning, mobility and providing more resources as some of the issues they want to tackle.
A Wellshire resident, Black said she first ran for the seat in 2015 to advocate for a district she said traditionally has not received as many resources from the city as other districts. She’s calling for more creative solutions. She highlighted work in getting funding for a tunnel at the High Line Canal, which passes through the district, and for safety improvement in Hampden as just a few of the ways she’s helped the district.
“Historically, the city has not invested a lot of time, energy or resources down here,” Black said.
The list of things she hopes to work on if re-elected includes bringing more amenities to the district. A community survey conducted in 2017 showed residents in this district want more restaurant and bar options. She’s big on community engagement, producing both printed and online newsletters, and even creating a festival — South By Southeast in James A. Bible Park.
“We don’t have anything like this down here,” Black said. “Like, if you want to go do something fun like that, you have to do go downtown.”
She also wants to put in a new park in University Hills, and to make sure that’s paid more attention to, she wants to establish a citywide parks foundation to provide a dedicated source of revenue.
Mobility is another concern. While the district has several light rail stations, it’s not always to an easy walk to them as they usually require crossing traffic-heavy corridors like Hampden Avenue or Colorado Boulevard. She wants to add more sidewalks and bike lanes.
Zahradnicek has lived in the University Hills neighborhood for three years, though she’s been in Denver since 1984 (aside from a few years living in Europe) after her family moved from Wisconsin. A real estate broker, Zahradnicek said the district is a little bit older and whiter than the rest of the city, though she noted there has been a recent uptick in young families moving in the area.
“You have a lot of older people who want things to stay the same,” Zahradnicek said. “Some of the young people want a lot of the change and you’re getting a little headbutting from that.”
Her biggest motivation for running is to provide more opportunities for the people in her district. That’s how she said she ended up in Colorado — her father was looking for new job opportunities. She doesn’t like knowing it’s become more and more challenging for people to maintain “a decent, middle-class lifestyle” in the city.
She would like to improve housing availability by allowing more developments like townhomes, duplexes and accessory dwelling units. It’s an effort that would require changing zoning regulations to allow for what she calls “soft density” in the district.
“Not so much the skyscrapers that you could see that could make sense downtown. That wouldn’t make sense for our district,” Zahradnicek said.
Public safety is one concern Zahradnicek said needs to be addressed. And while homelessness isn’t necessarily a pressing issue in the district, Zahradnicek doesn’t support the Right to Survive initiative. She calls the urban campaign ban “inhumane,” but ultimately she doesn’t think it will help solve the issue of homelessness and it shows that the council isn’t doing what it should.
“The Right to Survive (initiative) comes from the right place. Unfortunately, you see more citizen-led initiatives when politicians aren’t doing their job and creating good policy,” Zahradnicek said.
Who’s got money?
According to the most recently available data, Black has raised $114,732.34 during this election cycle.
Zahradnicek has raised $4,697 during this election cycle.