The Stapleton neighborhood will get a new name after years of outcry by some community members, including from Black Denver residents. Signs with its current name are already being covered up.
But changing a neighborhood name is a bureaucratic process, which will begin this week.
On Wednesday, the Master Community Association’s community delegates in Stapleton will meet over Zoom and set in motion a process some people have sought for years. Stapleton’s name comes from former Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
MCA Executive Director Keven Burnett said the Wednesday meeting will involve 11 delegates who represent the neighborhood’s subsections. Burnett said delegates will likely request a special meeting where they will propose changing the neighborhood’s name to the MCA’s Board of Directors, but they won’t be making any binding decisions yet. Burnett said delegates function as the primary advisory group to the board.
The board needs at least a 10-day notice, so Burnett said that a special meeting could probably take place on June 30. At that meeting, delegates would formally request the board rename the neighborhood.
The board will then ask the neighborhood’s developers, Brookfield Properties Development, to change the name.
Brian Fennelly, CFO at Brookfield Properties Development, confirmed to Denverite it supports a name change. He said the company will help with taking down signage and removing the name from websites and social media accounts.
“The name was always planned to go away, at least from Forest City’s standpoint,” Fennelly said, referring to the original neighborhood master developer later purchased by Brookfield Properties Development. “Now seems to be a good time (to change the name) as the community is looking to do that.”
Burnett noted there is still no consensus about a new name.
Organizers with Black Lives Matter 5280, who scheduled a celebratory car rally in the neighborhood on Wednesday evening, mentioned two pioneering Black Denver doctors whose names could be used: Dr. Justina Ford or Dr. Joseph H.P. Westbrook. Both names are listed on the suggestions page of Rename St*pleton For ALL, a group that has advocated for a name change for years.
“A lot of people, including myself, love the name Westbrook, in honor of brother Westbrook, who was a very light-skinned Black man who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan,” Black Lives Matter 5280 organizer Amy E. Brown said on Monday.
Amanda Allshouse, president of the neighborhood RNO, Stapleton United Neighbors, said the group wants to help in the renaming process by gathering ideas from residents. The group will meet over Zoom on Tuesday evening.
Allshouse said they are also in the process of finding a new name for the RNO itself, two years after an unsuccessful vote to change its name to Central Park United Neighbors.
Burnett said the current process mirrors what happened last year when the neighborhood held a referendum on a name change.
It’s similar but happening at a much quicker pace. He noted the ongoing demonstrations against racism helped reignited the conversation about the neighborhood’s name.
Last year, Burnett said delegates wanted to “survey” residents about a potential name change. Only property owners were allowed to vote; 35 percent of property owners voted to change the name, while 65 percent voting against changing it.
The city is also getting involved in the renaming process, which Burnett said wasn’t the case last year. Councilman Chris Herndon has asked Mayor Michael Hancock’s office to remove the name from the city’s systems.
“We have always thought that until the city and Brookfield come on board, that this is a very difficult topic for just the MCA to navigate,” Burnett said.
Hancock’s spokesperson Michael Strott said in an email on Tuesday the mayor supports the name change and wants to leave it up to the residents there to pick a new name. Strott added the city’s planning department has started the process of removing the neighborhood name from its GIS systems in anticipation of the new name.