The third of eight principles in our conceptual master streetscape plan is Celebrate The Character. But, what the hell does that mean? Probably the truthful answer is that “the character” is ever-evolving. I actually believe that in one respect, Colfax has always been a mirror of Denver’s soul. The definition on page 11 of our plan is:
“People appreciate Colfax as a very inclusive and democratic place. Careful consideration for celebrating the unique character and imperfection of the corridor, such as some of the exciting and edgy feature that are less filtered or polished than other places in Denver.”
First, people came to the territory and traveled on the Golden Road because it took miners to the town of Golden where they didn’t find gold. Then wealth grew in Denver and the name of the avenue changed to the Grand Boulevard to reflect the large mansions constructed but that were relatively short-lived when the Silver Bust forced many of the mansions to be converted into apartments and boarding homes. In the meantime, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and eventual Vice President for Ulysses S. Grant, Schuyler Colfax from Indiana came to Colorado and our locals wanted to change from a territory to a state so they sweetened the deal by naming the most iconic street in Denver, Colfax Avenue.
Change has defined Colfax. We’ve changed the street’s name. We used to have many more parking spots and prostitutes. We changed from horses and pedestrians, to trolleys and streetcars, to an automobile corridor, and now we’re in the process of changing back to a main street corridor that prioritizes people and brings better public transportation with the bus rapid transit construction.
Yet, through all this change, we’ve stayed so much the same. Just like our own bodies in which we no longer have the original cells today that we had when we were born. We are different, but we are the same. And Colfax has a DNA all its own. The challenge is that it is not simple to put our fingers on what the “Colfax DNA” exactly is.
We don’t have Model T Fords, and trolleys, but we still have the roll-up-yer-shirtsleeves type of attitude that makes Colfax self-made and unique. How can we keep that character while also keeping Colfax the most welcoming and democratic street in Denver? How can we change yet remain the same?