Author Archives: Margaret Lea

MHC Closes Its Doors

     
Nonprofit organizations exist not only to be mission-driven but to be mission-accomplished. After an impactful 10-year journey, Mile High Connects has reached that pivotal point where we’ve accomplished the goals we were launched to achieve. While the work of systems change and equitable coalition-building is certainly not over, Mile High Connects—in its current iteration— has expended all it possessed to strengthen the region, and now it’s time to close our doors to make way for a new coalition of partners to emerge.  

Our Origins & Evolution Over the Years
Mile High Connects was launched in 2011 in response to the region’s rapid impending growth, most notably the reinvestment in our public transportation system, RTD’s FasTracks, and the expensive redevelopment that our founders knew would come as a result. Simultaneously, our nation was reeling from the lingering effects of the greatest housing and economic crisis since the Great Depression.  

Our founding partners knew that addressing the monumental issues of affordable housing and mobility required a coordinated approach- rooted in collaboration and equity- among diverse stakeholders. A collaborative, then known as Mile High Transit-Oriented Collaborative (MHTOC), was formed with one goal in mind — opportunity for all through transit.   

In the years since, Mile High Connects and its partners have made capital more accessible to community developers through the Denver Metro Transit-Oriented Development Fund (TOD Fund), successfully advocated for affordable transit, and promoted equitable policies and practices at the local and state levels.   

All of these accomplishments have been juxtaposed to an evolving region where there are compounding economic, health, and climate crises.   

Like our region, our Collaborative has evolved—from one centered on equitable mobility solutions to one focused on equitable development and community & cultural preservation. As we have grown, we have worked to build the biggest table possible, sharing our knowledge, connections, and financial resources, while constantly asking ourselves, “who is missing from the table” and “are we best suited to meet the goals at hand”?  Over the past year, the Mile High Connects steering committee and staff reflected deeply on these questions and concluded it is time to make way for an emerging coalition of partners with dedicated expertise in advocacy, development, and awareness building to assist communities in realizing equitable developmental community and cultural preservation.  

Looking Back While Looking Forward
Mile High Connects would not be here today without the dedication and support of countless partner organizations, community and national foundations, individual leaders, and community organizers. We invite all of you to join us on this transitional journey as we celebrate over ten years of collaborative success in our region and set the table for a new coalition to be born.   

We will update you along the way as the new coalition takes shape to shepherd the work in our evolving region. To start, you will hear from the coalition members as they share their commitment to the work moving forward and what it means for their respective organizations. Along the way, we’ll share updates as the coalition formalizes its approach and vision for metro Denver’s future.  

With over ten years of relationship building and collaboration, there are literally hundreds of voices and stories related to the work we’ve done together. We are committed to hearing from those who have inspired us and shared lessons along the way as we sought to build a more equitable Denver metro region. These narratives will be compiled into a final dispatch to you, our community, in the hopes that the spirit of Mile High Connects can continue through each of you. We hope to celebrate and reflect on this collective impact together this summer and will provide details about that opportunity.  

We are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Onward!  

Sincerely,  

Deyanira  Zavala                                                              
Executive Director                                                     
dzavala@milehighconnects.org    

Donna Garnett
Steering Committee Chairperson      

Denver’s Expanding Housing Affordability

The burden of owning or renting a house in the Denver metro region is heavy for many residents as wage growth has not kept pace with the increased cost of living.  With Denver rents skyrocketing, renters must make at least $27.50 per hour, which is in stark contrast with Colorado’s minimum wage of $12.32 per hour.

In May, the Colorado legislature voted to approve House Bill 2021-1117. This bill was advocated for by numerous partners and advocates to replace a Colorado Supreme Court decision that once prohibited such “inclusionary housing” practices and allows local governments to require rental housing developers to provide affordable units in new development projects. Here is a sample of what is included in the bill:

  • Cities can now require affordable housing to be included in all new for-sale and for-rent housing.
  • Requires local governments to offset costs, relax zoning restrictions and provide alternatives, recognizing that inclusionary housing creates higher costs on multi-family developments.
  • Requires local governments to provide some options to allow for one or more alternatives to the construction of new affordable housing units

Once passed, the city and county of Denver lept into action. Their Community Planning and Development department drafted a policy proposal to ensure that as new housing is built, new affordable housing is created.

The Expanding Housing Affordability (or EHA) is designed to be complementary to the Department of Housing Stability’s (HOST)’s efforts to address Denver’s housing needs, namely the production of new affordable units in mixed-income communities by combining affordable homes into market-rate development. HOST has faced challenges in creating truly mixed-income communities over the years, and this newly passed but long fought-for legislation has enabled Denver and other localities across the state to mandate inclusionary housing.

MHC brought together key stakeholders, including Brad Wienig, Director of Catalytic Partnerships with HOST, and Analiese Hock, Principal City Planner with City and County of Denver, to discuss the purpose of EHA and provide some initial feedback on the proposal  As part of our collaborative call to action, MHC submitted a letter of recommendations (posted below) to the City and County of Denver.

While we have a long way to go on addressing the housing shortage for our low-income neighbors, we celebrate the years-long community organizing and policy advocacy efforts that led to the passing of HB21-1117, which allowed localities to mandate affordable housing or equal alternatives in new developments. Keep up with Denver’s EHA as it makes its way through council this spring. 



Ushering in 2022 with Continued Support of Our Collaborative Partners

As the Denver metro region continues to grow in the face of climate change, COVID, and lack of affordability for so many, MHC understands more than ever the importance of bringing together individuals, organizations, philanthropy, and government to achieve community change at levels they cannot achieve alone. As we usher in the new year, we celebrate and continue to support the work of our collaborative partners, all in service of uprooting systemic inequities while responding to the immediate needs of community. This is our work.

MHC and its collaborative partners are working toward a common vision where all people in our region are free and live in equitable, resilient communities. Our Collaborative Work Plan serves as the roadmap for this vision – addressing deeply rooted systemic issues while ensuring community needs are met. It reflects local work of our partners with an understanding that many of the common barriers they experience are connected to systemic causes that target BIPOC and low-income residents, including lack of access to land ownership and other opportunities for wealth-building, as well as a lack of representation at planning and policy decision-making tables.

MHC’s work plan was built by our Coordinated Action Committee, comprised of steering committee members and partners from

  • West Denver Renaissance Collaborative (West Denver)
  • Maiker Housing Partners (Southwest Adams County)
  • Enterprise Community Partners (East Denver/Regional)
  • Montbello Organizing Committee (Far Northeast Denver)
  • Cha Ka M Zee (Community leader/Regional)

Each partner is working locally in our target geographies – West Denver, East Denver, Far NE Denver, and SW Adams County, and elevated specific projects that will move the needle forward on MHC’s three strategies of Unlocking Community Power, Equitable Development, and Equitable Capital. These strategies were supported with a range of resources including capacity building, technical assistance, peer connections, and financial resources (as available).

Thanks to the contributions of the Strong Prosperous & Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), Forth Mobility/Greenlining Institute, and local funders, last year MHC supported all Coordinated Action Committee members, in addition to other local partners doing critical work to advance our strategies, including:

  • East Colfax Community Collective
  • Sun Valley Kitchen
  • Colorado Black Arts Movement
  • 9to5 Colorado
  • United for a New Economy

Anchored in our unlocking community power strategy, MHC:

  • Continued to support the community movement building and organizing capacity of our local partners, resulting in organizational changes that provide formal structures for authentic community engagement and program co-creation.
  • Financially supported partners in SW Adams County to develop a start-up committee to inform a new organizing and training institute to tackle critical issues such as healthy food, language, and vaccine access.
  • Financially supported efforts of our west Denver partners to increase the capacity for organizing across that region.
  • Sponsored Zoom licenses for community organizers and partners, opening access to virtual public meetings and identifying strategies to sustain the work in a post-pandemic world.

As part of our equitable development strategy, we:

  • Financially supported partners in exploring community ownership models to fight displacement, increase local stabilization, and build community resilience.
  • Supported local partners with data and research into community ownership models to inform their path forward.
  • Cohosted community discussion on electric mobility and infrastructure to understand potential hurdles in implementations

To open access to equitable capital, we:

  • Financially supported predevelopment costs associated with community-driven mixed-use projects designed to address lack of housing, missing healthy food systems, and other critical local needs, such as Montbello’s FreshLo project.

Connecting local issues to larger-scale impacts to drive equitable change, we amplified regional and state-level efforts by supporting affordable housing campaigns of our partners to advance safe, healthy housing in COVID recovery, including implementing an extension to the state’s eviction moratorium and two state bills focused on tenant protections.

As the need to implement and operationalize equitable practices grows, MHC’s years of unprecedented experience as a collaborative of community-based organizations and institutional partners, paired with our more recent work through the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Community Challenge (SPARCC), positions us to preach what we practice and advocate for continued support of collaborative work and the need for deeper relational partnerships, stronger community networks, sustained access to expertise and technical assistance, and diverse, unrestricted, and patient capital.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rulemaking – Centering Equity in the Process 2.0

11/18/2021

This was the second letter we sent to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to advocate for equity in the greenhouse gas rulemaking process.

The undersigned members of the Denver-based Land Use Work Group (LUWG), including nonprofit advocacy organizations, nonprofit developers, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and residents tracking and amplifying local efforts while advocating for policy change to reflect the nexus of housing and transportation and ensure that investments in the built environment reduce racial disparities, maintain community, build a culture of health, and respond to the climate crisis.

Thank you CDOT for undertaking the project on Rules Governing Statewide Transportation Planning Process and Planning Regions and providing the opportunity for public comment. We appreciate the changes that have been incorporated into the revised rule and for the chance to further improve the rule to ensure we remain on track to meet the state’s climate goals and address the needs of communities that have been disproportionately impacted by climate change.

The rule thoughtfully addresses the importance of multi-agency modeling, ensures mitigating measures stay local among road projects, explicitly acknowledges the role of induced demand, and many other modifications to mitigate transportation pollution. Nevertheless, the current rule still fails to adequately promote climate-friendly land-use policies and center people and environmental justice.

The following recommendations seek to create a more equitable approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while centering the needs of Colorado’s most disproportionately impacted communities (DICs):

Center People and Climate Justice: It is imperative that the rule is centered around communities that have been the most disproportionately impacted by the effects of transportation pollution. While the revised rule acknowledges the importance of mitigation investments that provide localized benefits to DICs, it fails to directly provide explicit measures for community benefit and does not emphasize the need for public engagement within decision-making processes. To strengthen climate justice and advance equity the rule should incorporate the following:

  • Immediate adoption of a transportation equity framework must be a priority for CDOT. The framework should be vetted by community, modifiable to meet the unique needs of different communities, and equity measures should address community-voiced needs. Equity assessments should be used to inform the transportation equity framework by collecting and analyzing community-shared information related to harmful transportation project development and pollution.
  • Establishment of a Community Advisory Committee or Steering Committee comprised of community residents, organizations, youth, etc. charged with reviewing equity assessments submitted by community.
  • Increased opportunities for community engagement and outreach to identify disparities among community. Community input should shape the specific equity metrics and outcomes used to measure the direct/project benefits related to improve air quality and mobility options and access among DICs.
  • Resources for community informed processes to assess and co-create solutions that mitigate the health impacts of GHG emissions in DICs.
  • Consider funding opportunities for Community Benefit Agreements among DICs based on project location and potential impact. OR provide funding for building capacity amongst community benefits groups.
  • Elevated needs and benefits of equitable transit-oriented development, prioritizing projects that increase access to transportation, education work, food, goods, and services, etc. this move the needle enough to create real change and meet the statutory requirements?

Reduction targets for VMT: Reducing VMT serves as one of the best ways to permanently reduce transportation pollution. To meet the state’s climate goals, the rule should include explicit and measurable VMT reduction levels required by each planning region. Allowing three consecutive years of non-VMT reduction among MPO areas prior to conducting revisions, will not achieve VMT reductions that are necessary to meet state goals. Furthermore, we cannot consider VMT reductions without including smart land use strategies. To increase knowledge of the undoubtable connection between smart land use strategies and VMT reduction CDOT should:

  • Consider local land use and development patterns and the extent to which they contribute to VMT per capita reductions for the proposed transportation project.
  • Prioritize projects that incorporate additional smart growth strategies such as up zoning, mixed[1]use infill development, adaptive re-use, and transit-oriented development.
  • Create a bonus for projects that advance equity by incorporating affordable housing and TDM programs that lower the combined housing and transportation costs for low-income households.
  • Act swiftly to expand mitigation measures should any region fail to achieve the 2025 GHG or 2030 reduction targets. The reductions are cumulative – the lessons of climate change indicate that early action is the cheapest action.
  • Ensure that RTD and other regional transit authorities are explicitly funded by name to guarantee certainty in service delivery going forward

We appreciate your commitment and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, improve air quality, and provide more travel options throughout Colorado, and your consideration of these recommendations.

Sincerely,


Mile High Connects
YIMBY Denver
Denver Streets Partnership
All In Denver
JJK Places

Download a copy of the letter in PDF here.

Reclaiming Our Future – This is Our Moment

From our November 2021 Newsletter

A Word, First:

Welcome to budget season! We’ve seen a flurry of media coverage on investments in our communities. The bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is an important investment in public transit and infrastructure improvements that bring broadband internet and lead-free pipes to neighborhoods. The passage of this bill is due in large part to national transit advocates, including our friends at Denver Streets Partnership.


Meanwhile, closer to home, the Governor’s budget tackles poor air quality by offering free transit on ozone days, investments in affordable housing options, and calls for the creation of a Colorado Equity Office.But the work is not done, and our institutions can do better. The Infrastructure Bill alone will not address the compounding crisis facing our region. The Build Back Better framework alongside the Infrastructure bill will create good-paying jobs while ensuring that stable, affordable housing is attainable by all. And, as federal and state resources flow down, we need to prepare community organizations to access these funds without hesitation. Every dollar counts when it comes to keeping residents in place. That means MHC will continue to advocate for equitable investment into communities as federal and state dollars roll down and out into communities. This is our moment.


The Equitable Approach: Where the Incremental is Transformational

In Denver, the Auraria campus sets out to redress generational impacts of displacement for Hispanic and Indigenous people of color who were forced out of the area in the early 1970’s through free tuition. Read on to learn more…

A new survey reveals Denver immigrants felt protected from the pandemic by the city, but that it needs to do more with outreach. Immigrants experienced increased strength in connection with fellow residents and are realizing their own collective power. Learn more


Community Stewardship: What’s Inspiring Us

Urban Land Conservancy Acquires East ColfaxCitywide Bank Site

Land Use Work Group Weighs in on CDOT’s GHG Rulemaking

Community-Led Plans Fight Redlining and Climate Change

Documentary:”A Decent Home”, featuring9to5 Colorado organizer


Partner Spotlight: Lauren Hornett

“THANK YOU”

After two incredible years at the helm of the Mile High Connects’ Steering Committee as our Chair, Lauren Hornett, Vice President of Community Development at Wells Fargo, will step down and focus on her new little bundle of joy!

We thank you for your leadership, insight, love and care for our collaborative, Lauren!


Connective Tissue: Opportunities to Connect

Vaccine Hesitancy & Access Resources

As part of our effort to address vaccine hesitancy, we heeded the call from community connectors, health navigators and direct service providers to provide skills and techniques to successfully engage unvaccinated folks in conversations encouraging them to get the vaccine. So many connectors are over-worked and burnt-out, and feel they have very little tools to address vaccine hesitancy. Some of them had heard of Motivational Interviewing (MI) and wanted to learn more about it as a way to talk about vaccines.

Thanks to a connection through the Colorado Health Institute, we partnered with the Behavioral Health & Wellness team at University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus, Department of Psychiatry, to provide a virtual training for our community partners on a 3-step process that involves Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques that help to strengthen personal motivation to get the vaccine.

The Behavioral Health & Wellness team created the “COVID-10 Protect | Me You Us” initiative to emphasize personal responsibility to protect oneself, their families, and their communities. The initiative is a partnership among the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Access, and the Behavioral Health & Wellness Program. They created a 3-step process towards acceptance:

  1. Access Disposition
  2. Use Motivational Interviewing (MI) to talk it out
  3. Make a Plan

Take a look here for a 30-minute video, detailing each step and acting out associated role playing, that the Behavioral Health & Wellness team put together to help us all take a few steps forward in getting everyone their shot.


Other timely resources include:

Categories: Uncategorized

Equitable Vaccine Distribution? Leverage Existing Transit Infrastructure.

In the months since the COVID vaccination efforts kicked off in the state, we’ve made enormous strides – over half of Colorado’s state population has been at least partially vaccinated to date, and community vaccine sites are emerging thanks in large part to organizations and leaders championing the cause.  While there may no longer be eligibility and appointment restrictions, other barriers keep our metro Denver residents from getting vaccines. More recently as more people have gotten vaccinated, demand has declined, and dose availability has increased, a default narrative is taking center stage: that those who remain unvaccinated are choosing not to be so. However, the reality is that many of our Black, Brown, Indigenous and other People of Color (BBIPOC) and low-income community residents do not have transport options that are affordable, accessible, or reliable to get to and from vaccine sites. In fact, many residents that are looking for a vaccine are also looking for a ride.

As we reimagine recovery and revolutionize how we use the built environment to support public health and community well-being, we encourage going further in leveraging existing infrastructure to better connect services to the people.

Thanks to an analysis (see below for link) of RTD’s Park-n-Ride (PNR)s, we have a better understanding where the need is and what locations would best serve those who are hardest to reach. PNR locations are suitable for semi-permanent vaccine sites because they are accessible by public transit, car, and other micro-mobility options, they have established infrastructure such as protected areas, utility connections and waste management services, and they tap into and enhance existing infrastructure to meet the moment and ensure access to services as a public health necessity. The report’s author, Luna Hoopes, identified 36 PNR sites as eligible for semi-permanent vaccine operations to serve our low-income and BBIPOC communities who often rely on public transit, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID and will likely need a more sustained rollout due to other access issues and potential need for booster shots.

While this analysis show gaps in vaccine site distribution as a snapshot in time and the landscape is evolving rapidly as we move away from mass vaccination sites to community-based locations, it reveals a strategic and timely opportunity to provide easily accessible vaccine sites through existing infrastructure.  In Covina, CA, the Foothills Transit agency had built a three-level bus depot and PNR garage last March just before COVID hit. The transit agency pivoted to use this new space to provide an easily accessible location for transit riders to get vaccinated. They also “wanted a location that would support the community where this transit center is located.” Across the country, at least 450 public transportation providers are providing free transit to vaccination sites, according to those behind the VaxTransit campaign aimed as providing those without transportation access to vaccines.

We know that transit agencies across the country have been rocked by devastating loss of riders, issues hiring bus and train operators, and an unpredictable future as we climb out of the pandemic mess. Instead of continuing to place more of a burden on RTD to go out of its way to transport people to vaccine sites, why not bring the two services together and remove that additional burden from RTD? We can partner with vaccine operators to utilize RTD’s existing infrastructure to reach more people and take advantage of existing opportunity. By placing one service near another service, the resulting proximity and ease will allow more equitable access to those who most need and deserve it, and give more residents a fair shot at getting a shot.

What to Know About RTD’s Income-Based Discount Program: LiVE

illustration by Dion Harris

As our communities recover, we have an eye on those most adversely impacted by COVID-19, the economic downturn, and inequitable systems. Prior to the pandemic, low-income riders made up about half of RTD transit riders, and those who continue to rely on public transportation are mostly Black, Brown, Indigenous, other people of color and low-income workers. Building on our advocacy work from years past to help establish an income-based discount program within RTD, we want to be sure this resource is known widely in community and accessible to those who qualify – especially now.

Before the pandemic hit, we were working with community partners to inform transit riders of this new income-based discount fare program, and had to shift to virtual engagement as lockdown measures were put in place. In doing so, Mile High Connects partnered with the Denver Regional Metro Council of Governments (DRMAC), Denver Human Services (DHS) and RTD to provide virtual trainings on this program, specifically on eligibility requirements, the application process, and how to use the discount program once you have qualified.

Below is a library of training materials, including recorded videos and printed training materials in English and Spanish, detailing RTD’s LiVE program. We encourage you to share widely with your networks.

RTD LiVE Discount Fare: Eligibility & Application

Community is Leading the Way. Let’s Clear the Path Ahead.

“in community, our potential is truly realized…we have the capacity to hold each other, serve each other, heal each other, create for and with each other, forgive each other, and liberate ourselves and each other.” – adrienne maree brown, “in relationship with others” blog post, July 7, 2009

The rapid worldwide spread of COVID-19 greatly transformed our communities as the healthcare, and subsequent economic, crisis unfolded last year, compounding impact disparities that our BBIPOC partners face ongoingly, while highlighting the fragility of the systems upon which we collectively depend. The resilience of our region continues to be challenged amidst uncertainty, a dearth of clear and accurate information, lack of access to goods and services (including vaccines), and overall isolation. However, if there is one lesson that continues to shine through for us all to learn from, it is that hyper-local, community-driven solutions that build true community power and shared wealth are the keys to equitable, resilient and restorative systems where everyone not only survives, they thrive.

The indispensable role of community and its collective power has been tragically called forth by the pandemic and beautifully displayed through emergency response efforts of community groups such as the Colorado Changemakers Collective, also known as the Colectiva Creando Cambios, CCC, or Colectiva. This Montbello-based group was created in 2018 with a long-term vision of community transformation that is grounded in the belief that those most affected by social inequalities must be central to the work that has to be done. In 2020, the critical nature of Colectiva’s work was laid bare, as they quickly mobilized community partners to meet the emerging needs of the Latinx community, including access to basic needs and food.

We learned about Colectiva’s journey by way of our community partners, Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC), who were integral contributors to the collective response. We were eager to learn more and have them share their experience at a community gathering on Zoom in February. At the gathering, Maricruz Herrera, founder of Colectiva, gave a heart-felt, up close and personal account of their COVID-19 Community Response Network’s fast evolving work throughout last year, as 13 separate neighborhood organizations banded together to create a resourceful response network that worked tirelessly to meet the emergency needs of community as our region locked down to curb the coronavirus outbreak. To date, they have served over 2,500 families in Denver, Westminster, Aurora, Commerce City, Rifle, and beyond!

In a very short period, the Montbello community mobilized its network – a net that works; a net that has always worked but has been hindered by systemic barriers – by connecting community members to resources through trusted relationships. La Colectiva’s powerful engine was driven by the work of community navigators or promotoras and fueled by local volunteers and funders, including The Denver Foundation, Mile High Connects, and COVID relief funds. As our communities continue to recover and redefine normal, we can no longer collectively turn our gaze from the disproportionate impacts of concurrent crises on BBIPOC communities, nor can we afford to miss any opportunity to support and build on the wisdom of and solution in community centered response.

It is time to learn from community and support their tried-and-true efforts, like Colectiva’s COVID-19 Community Response Network. In partnership with Colectiva, Montbello Organizing Committee, and many other local community serving organizations, Mile High Connects is committed to its community stewardship where our work centers community, responding to immediate local needs while elevating local voice in recovery and redevelopment. Our goal is to unlock community power through greater local control, community ownership, and preservation of place, and we must heed the pathways to liberation that communities keep showing us.

The Acute Meets The Chronic: The Work of Our Collaborative in 2020

Our Program Update, July 2020:

COVID-19 has acutely demonstrated that everyone needs to live in safe and healthy communities – communities that advance economic opportunity, prevent residential, commercial and cultural displacement, build on local assets, promote mobility and connectivity, and enable equitable access to planning, development, and decision-making. Our work now is to collaboratively navigate escalating risks while continuing to lay the foundation for a new system paradigm – one that we have been working for all along. 

Mile High Connects is taking a stand for an equitable, resilient Metro Denver where community-driven solutions are at the center of transformative change. In order to increase equitable investment into community-centered solutions, we are committing to:

  1. strengthen community leadership and development with financial resources and technical assistance,
  2. institutionalize equitable development through advocacy and practice, and
  3. activate and deploy equitable capital for catalytic projects that will influence and leverage public investments while preserving place

Based on years of deep engagement in community, and the continued generous support of The Denver Foundation, the Piton Foundation, the Colorado Health Foundation, Gates Family Foundation, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Wells Fargo and US Bank, we have recommitted our program work to three local geographies that experience persistent trauma, inequitable allocation of resources, and are most at risk of displacement pressures – Southwest Adams County, West Denver, and East Denver. Leveraging continued support from the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), a multi-city national cohort of regional collaboratives, our goal is to increase equitable investment into community-driven solutions by 2023.  

Community ownership is a critical opportunity in this moment and its success will rely upon connected, informed and organized communities with strong leadership. Work across our target geographies will focus on building community development infrastructure and leadership development. In West Denver, for example, we will support the growth of their Community Connector program established to get folks connected to resources in response to the health and financial crises. In Southwest Adams County, we will support the design and development of a community organizing institute. We will also explore Community Investment Trust (CIT) models and identify local opportunities to implement a pilot.

Critically, in our effort to institutionalize equitable development, we will identify policy gaps and opportunities brought to light by COVID-19 and recent social unrest, and advocate for local, state and national policies that reduce displacement of residents and businesses. We plan to influence local and regional planning efforts to support the application of an equity lens in every decision made. We will also sponsor and promote existing Community Benefits Agreement (CBAs) efforts across our region.

Capital is a crucial piece of the community ownership puzzle, and we are committed to the equitable deployment of it. Mile High Connects will continue to support pre-development efforts in West Denver along Morrison Road to support BuCu West in creating a business corridor that preserves culture and place. We will also support the development of Montbello’s grocery-store-anchored cultural hub that includes affordable rental housing. Over in East Denver, with compounded displacement pressures at play, we will align resources and partners to create and preserve affordable housing units.

As our community partners focus both on recovery efforts and the long-term root cause remedies to systemic oppression, we stand where the acute meets the chronic. We have an opportunity to reimagine the way forward, one that unlocks community power, promotes racial equity, rebalances our economic structures, and ensures housing for all.