Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Holly Square could be a symbol

Ever since President Obama won his election in 2008 after being ridiculed by Repubicans as a mere community organizer, community development has become an "in" thing.

A story in Wednesday's Denver Post suggests, however, inner-city redevelopment also can be a long haul.

A worthwhile long haul, but not something that can be treated as a fad.

The front-page news story, headlined: "Holly Square hopes," was illustrated with two pictures: one of Brother Jeff Fard laying a kiss on the forehead of Nobel Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum at a ceremony on the site of the Holly Square redevelopment project, and a second photo of the Family Dollar store burning down at the site two years ago.

The redevelopment represents an opportunity for small business owners.

Retail and office space is expected to be available on the site when final redevelopment plans are approved and funding is found.

On public television you can see and hear stories about redevelopment in Chile, South Africa or Brazil, but Holly Square is smack dab in the middle of Denver. It needs community interest from the entire metro area if it is to pull off its resurrection free of gang influence, poverty, violence and despair.

Redevelopment for the blighted site has been a long time coming. The fire that cleared the land followed a long, inexorable decline driven by the poverty of area residents, and despite past attempts at neighborhood revival. The Denver Office of Economic Development has been involved for several years.

Terrance Roberts, founder of an anti-gang group he calls the Prodigal Son, told Colleen O'Connor of the Post: "This community has been hit hard with a lot of youth violence. But we also have the most community organizing efforts in northeast Denver right here in Park Hill."

The development is between 33rd and 35th avenues, Hudson and Holly streets in northeast Denver.

New minority-owned businesses should consider such projects natural -- and usually cheap --start-up locations because a built-in customer base can be expected to grow with the redevelopment; established small businesses can look at such projects as opportunities for expansion without adding steep costs to their balance sheets.

It is appropriate for Holly Square to be revived during the administration of the nation's first African-American chief exeutive, not only because Obama is president, but also to illustrate what community organizing can do for a nation that desperately needs renewal.

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