Introducing Lavender Hill, Denver’s first Queer Cultural District

Lavender Hill covers parts of Capitol Hill, City Park West, Cheesman Park, Baker and Five Points.
3 min. read
Thousands of people march in the Denver PrideFest parade, June 17, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In a few years, visitors to Denver might wander through Capitol Hill and pass signs marking important moments in the city's LGBTQ+ history.

They might pass through a neighborhood in Baker full of pride flags year-round and visit a public art installation honoring queer culture. Maybe they'll stay at a hotel owned by a gay couple or visit a longstanding lesbian bar.

It's part of Zach Kotel's vision for Lavender Hill, Denver's first Queer Cultural District. Kotel, a Denver-based designer and co-founder of the District, partnered with The Center on Colfax, Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and Black Pride Colorado to create the district.

Zach Kotel, executive director of the Lavender Hill Cultural District, stands in front of the big X Bar/Romantix mural on East Colfax Avenue. June 14, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

It covers parts of Capitol Hill, City Park West, Cheesman Park, Baker and Five points. Lavender Hill is currently a grassroots effort, but Kotel hopes to get official city recognition in coming years.

"Working in placemaking, I've seen time and time again how powerful creating and designing a space can be," Kotel said in a statement Wednesday. "I wanted our community to feel those same transformative results, especially now, when we're facing renewed legislative attacks nationwide. I also knew that Denver's values were better than that, and that our city would embrace the idea of celebrating its own."

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While Lavender Hill just launched Wednesday, Kotel pointed to one element Denverites can currently visit: the Joy of Pride project, a photography installation along Colfax Avenue between Grant and Josephine Streets created in partnership with Colfax Avenue BID, Black Pride Colorado and YouthSeen.

"I find joy in seeing young Queer people feeling comfortable and safe in themselves, and seeing older Queer adults with gray and white hairs," said Leigh Briggs, one person featured in Joy of Pride, in a statement. "We've always been here, we'll always be here. Por siempre viviremos."

Ty Bradford waves his pride flag as Denverites gathered at Cheesman Park celebrate Joe Biden's victory in the U.S. presidential election. Nov. 7, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Kotel also pointed to Denver's Pride Parade route and State Capitol legislation as current elements of the district.

"We have the pride parade route that goes from Cheesman Park, another historic center of queer activity in Cap Hill, all the way to the Capitol, which has been the sight of a lot of firsts, from being a hate state to the first openly gay governor, to the progressive laws that we just passed in the last legislative session creating safe havens for trans people," Kotel told Denverite. "It's this living and historic core."

Kotel said the specific boundaries of the district are intentionally blurry to promote inclusivity and intersectionality within the queer community and envision a district that can adapt and grow by partnering with local businesses and nonprofits.

"Everybody that we've approached with this idea, I've heard nothing but positivity and excitement," he said. "People are like, 'Why doesn't this already exist?'"

CPR Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner contributed reporting to this article. 

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