Weblog of Leland Rucker
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Five Points: A Human Scale


Looking southwest on Welton Street at 29th Street. Downtown Denver is less than a mile but a world away from Five Points. (click to enlarge)

One of the things I like about the Five Points District is its human scale. Quite simply: There are no tall buildings. Except for the four-story multi-use structure built recently on the east side of the Five Points intersection, no building is higher than two stories, which offers a sharp contrast to downtown Denver, whose skyscrapers can be observed from almost anywhere in the Five Points neighborhood by just looking southwest.

Walking down Welton from the Free Speech TV offices at 29th Street, I pass storefronts that are single story and completely unimposing and inviting. It’s the kind of ambience that planners try to emulate in suburban malls.

Along the west side of Welton near 28th St are homes that double as storefront businesses. (click to enlarge)

Adding to the human dimension of the commercial district is the fact that some of the businesses are attached to the homes originally built along Welton Street. I’m not sure if they were built that way or whether the storefronts take up what would have once been the front yards, but it gives the street the feel of residency as well as commercialism.

The tallest structures are at the Five Points intersection: the landmark Baxter Building, which houses the famous Rossonian Hotel, which housed jazz musicians before the Civil Rights Act, and the Fern Building, which is about the same height and has a long history as a ballroom, Prohibition tavern and the place where Sonny Liston trained for his fights against Cassius Clay in the 1960s.

Christ in the City Church is a good example of the human scale of buildings along Welton Street. The brick building on the right has been rehabilitated since this shot was taken. (click to enlarge)

It’s apparent that there have been attempts to revitalize the area recently, and Sen. Mark Udall gave a mod to a new redevelopment plan after a tour of the area in July, but Five Points remains a mish-mash of businesses that cater to the neighborhood amidst boarded-up storefronts and buildings in need of repair or rehabilitation.

There are several barber and beauty products shops, legal offices, shoe-shine parlor, men’s clothing store, a market, churches, a couple of live music venues, Wells Fargo and Bank One outlets, soul food restaurants and take-out tamale and burger spots.

The Rossonian Hotel is an elegant building at that is at the height limits of the Five Points district. (click to enlarge)

A couple are being or have recently been rehabbed. A marijuana dispensary recently opened discretely. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles License Bureau has an outlet in Five Points Plaza, part of one attempt to rejuvenate the area. Next door a Romanoff for Senate branch closed after he lost to Michael Bennet in the primary.

The 30th and Downing light rail line runs along Welton Street, with stops at 25th, 27th and 29th, all of which are places where people gather, especially in front of Five Points Plaza and the Welton Street Café, a Carribean/soul food restaurant that, though in a new building, epitomizes the tradition of the area.

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