The former Le Central French restaurant building in Cap Hill will be the new home of Denver’s Harm Reduction Action Center

The agency runs a needle exchange programs and other services for people with addiction. Local businesses have concerns.
4 min. read
The Harm Reduction Action Center’s forthcoming location on Capitol Hill near Lincoln Avenue on Monday, Jan. 13, in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

The Harm Reduction Action Center, which provides services for drug users in Denver, is moving into a larger space on Capitol Hill on Eighth Avenue after spending the last five years on Colfax.

The new space is at 112 E. 8th Ave., and used to be the home of longtime French restaurant Le Central, which operated from 1981 to 2015. It was replaced by another restaurant, Clyde, which closed in 2017.

The center is known for its needle-exchange program, though it provides other services as well. Executive Director Lisa Raville said their new space offers them twice the floor space and keeps them in a central location in the city.

The new site is still part of Police District 6. Raville said the agency has developed a good relationship with the cops in that district, which was another factor in choosing their new space. It's also close to Denver Health. Raville said that means she can walk people over if they require more serious or immediate medical attention.

Raville said the move won't interrupt their services. The needle exchange operates Monday through Friday. HRAC will continue to operate from their current Colfax location until Friday, Jan. 31. and services at the new location will begin Monday, Feb. 3. The building formerly known as Le Central or Clyde will be the agency's fourth location since it launched in 2002.

Two nearby businesses expressed some concerns over their new neighbors. 

Raville said it's important for them to explain to people who work or live around the agency's locations what they are and what they're not.

"That's the best compliment when people say 'We had no idea you were located here,'" Raville said.

Safe injection supplies inside the Harm Reduction Action Center, Aug. 30, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

She pointed to the agency's "Creating a Safe Neighborhood" award in 2018 from the Capitol Hill United Neighborhood Association and the grants it received grants from the group for cleanup efforts in the neighborhood.

"We end up being really great neighbors," Raville said. "We look forward to putting our heads down and doing really great work."

LowDown Brewery owner-operator Phil Phifer didn't know about his incoming neighbors when he spoke to Denverite on Monday. The brewpub sits on Lincoln Street, across from the center's new location. (Raville told Denverite she's tried to reach out to them.)

He said as a business owner he was "less than thrilled" about the agency's new location. Since the brewpub opened six years ago, he said the staff has dealt with folks who are experiencing homelessness who are often nearby and use services up the street at Christ's Body Ministries, a church and homeless service provider.

He said as a person, Phifer supports the services provided by Christ's Body. But he's still got a business to look after.

"You can't help as a business owner to wish you didn't have a bunch of homeless people around," Phifer said.

Next door to the brewpub, Vital Strength and Fitness general manager Eric Sanchez said he spoke to Raville on Monday and shared his concerns after she reached out and set up the meeting. Like Phifer, Sanchez said he frequently deals with people experiencing homelessness in the area.

He said Raville explained how people they serve are not allowed to use or sell narcotics in the area around the HRAC. Sanchez has reservations, but he's taking a wait-and-see approach.

"I'm very curious to see how that turns out once it starts," Sanchez said, before adding, "I kind of hope that it does help. My hope is that it does make it better."

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