Growing Pains: Colfax has been ‘defined by change’

Local resident works to keep the street’s future in mind

For Frank Locantore, Colfax Avenue has a special magic: From the music blaring from cars on the street to the smells of food wafting from restaurants, there’s a soundtrack to the famed street.
“There’s a real heartbeat to Colfax,” he said. “Living in this Capitol Hill, Colfax community, you can walk to whatever you want.”
The walkability and amenities were a big part of the reason that Locantore and his wife Jill decided to buy a house one block off of Colfax. The couple has lived in and around the Capitol Hill and Uptown areas for the past 14 years. Both are invested in the future developments of Denver through their jobs. Jill is executive director of Walk Denver, an advocacy group that promotes walking and pedestrian safety in the city. Locantore has been executive director of the Colfax Avenue Business Imporvement District (BID) for the last five years.
His role means he is an active participant in planning meetings, such as the Neighborhood Planning Initiative for the east central area of Denver, as well as the Rapid Bus Transit plan for Colfax Avenue.
“It continues to be exciting because there’s so much to learn,” he said. “There’s so much that you can have an impact on.” 
Business Improvement Districts help augment city services, Locantore said. Mainly, those fall into three categories — clean, safe and friendly, or as Locantore puts it, the “delight” of a particular neighborhood.
Through the Colfax Avenue BID, Locantore and his communications and programs director, Michelle Valleri, created the Colfax Works program. Colfax Works provides jobs to homeless or formerly incarcerated individuals. One of the jobs is to help clean the streets and maintain the area within the BID boundaries. As far as safety goes, the BID has been contemplating pups on patrol programs with people who own dogs. The BID also offers safety training to businesses with the police district.
The "delight" is a little more challenging to define, but the root of it, Locantore said, comes from the people. Keeping a diverse group on Colfax is crucial when Locantore thinks of future development projects. The personality of those people add greatly to daily living on Colfax. Locantore is also the first to admit Colfax is not an area that has remainded the same for long.
“If you have building design that is an approved design... but only a certain socio-economic type of person can ilve there, what type of character do we have?” he asked. “Colfax has been defined by change.”
When working with the city to help create plans for the neighborhood, as well as the new transit plan along Colfax, Locantore said residents need to keep the street's future in mind, rather than go back to a Colfax of the past. Forward thinking will help plan for more affordability and better walkability. For instance, he said, if people want a community that’s more environmentally friendly, they need to be working with the city to advocate for more bike lanes, safer sidewalks and more access to mass transit.
“Tell me the characteristics of the Colfax that you want,” he said, “and let’s figure out how to get to that in the 21st century.”


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