Wednesday 17 April, 2013
Colfax is Denver’s main drag. It stretches 26 miles from Buffalo Bill’s grave in the foothills of Golden to Interstate 70 in the eastern Colorado plains. Playboy Magazine famously called Colfax the ‘longest, wickedest street in America,’ referring to the shadiness that you find on some stretches of it. This is a shame because the reputation it has for its seedy character and dive bars overshadows the fact that there’s major gentrification going on. Colfax is trying to attract small businesses.
Colfax Gets a Bad Rap
Why is ‘the Fax’ known for its shadiness? Before about World War 2, it wasn’t so. But after the war, newly affluent Denverites made a flight to the growing suburbs, which promised to be paradises of convenience. At around the same time, Interstate 70 hit the scene. When this happened, Colfax lost the tourist dollars that had made it thrive. Combined with a downturn in the street’s business climate and terrible planning mistakes on the part of the City and County of Denver, and you get a street of sin.
Actually, there are just a few stretches of Colfax that give it its bad reputation. But the city isn’t going to make the same mistakes it made before. It’s determined to revitalize America’s longest street and get it thriving again.
Blueprint Denver and Its Plans for Colfax
Blueprint Denver was a major project by the Denver City Planning Department to revitalize areas of the city that are dangerous or lack suitable infrastructure. The main drag of East Colfax between Broadway and Colorado Boulevard was named as a priority area in the plan. Implementation began in 2005 and is ongoing. The project aims to provide East Colfax with better street-scaping, more pedestrian friendliness, enhanced multi-modal transportation (ease of use for cars, bicycles, mass transit, etc.), and commercial and residential development.
Connecting the Colfax Corridor
Colfax Corridor Connections is a project by the City and County of Denver to study the transportation needs of Colfax and improve its business environment. It also seeks to enhance multi-modal transportation (this is one of the many aims of Denver city planners – to create a fully multi-modal city). By adding to the street’s transportation capacity, the CCC hopes to bring more people to the area by making it easier for them to come and spend time there.
The Block 21 Development Plan
A new plan for a $160 million mixed-use development project near the Anschutz Medical Campus on East Colfax between Potomac and Xanadu streets was announced in early 2013. Proposed by Waveland Ventures LLC, a company based at Denver Tech Center, the project is dubbed Block 21 as a tribute to the old Army Hospital 21 that was located nearby. Block 21 will be a six-story hotel and conference center, a 4-story 100-unit apartment complex, restaurants, stores and an urban park. Waveland Ventures CEO Rick Hayes says it will have a major impact on future development of East Colfax.
The Small Businesses of East Colfax
The small business scene on East Colfax is picking up. So much so in fact that Yahoo News devoted an article in its Road Trip series to several of the businesses that are thriving on America’s longest street. Colfax’s reputation has been drug through the mud, but it looks like things are turning around.
Colfax was a thriving commercial center before World War 2. In fact, it was a trading route for the Native Americans who lived in the area. It’s an ideal location for businesses because of its central location and easy access to major routes like Interstate 70. It’s shedding its bad reputation and in the coming years it may become one of Denver’s hottest areas for businesses to call home.