Did Post Get the Wrong Scoop on St. Anthony Redevelopment?

Fall at Sloan's Lake

Don’t want skyscrapers spoiling this skyline? Well, then according to the Post, you are a spanner in the works of progress.

I don’t live in Sloan Lake, but that didn’t stop me from nearly losing my bananas when I saw this cheerful article in the Denver Post. (Yes, it’s a few months old.)


If you don’t feel like clicking, here’s the adorable, sunshiny title:


St. Anthony’s redevelopment to spur West Colfax renaissance


If your brain just screamed “puff piece,” get thee to the front of the class.


A little background: developer EFG purchased the former St. Anthony’s Hospital site from its parent company Catholic Health Initiatives. It’s now seeking approval from the Denver Planning Board to develop the land into a residential high-rise complex, complete with 12- to 20-story high-rises. (The area is currently zoned to five stories.)


Local residents have mixed feelings about this to say the least. But you’d hardly know it from the article.


The piece is illustrated with a smiley photo of EFG’s president Doug Elenowitz wearing a hard hat. He’s quoted as saying:


“We think it’s a dynamite location in terms of its place in Denver and the amenities around it.”


Uh, sure they do. No offense to Mr. Elenowitz, who I’m sure is a perfectly nice man, but he’s hardly an impartial source. Because there’s this thing called money he’ll be making if the deal goes through.


Mad negative props to the Post for trying to position him like he’s at the Rescue Mission in a hair net serving turkey.


However, this isn’t a complete ode to the savior-developer, because to his credit, the reporter did reach out to some concerned citizens:


“We feel [the development will] have a huge impact in terms of bringing in people and businesses and serving as a catalyst for revitalizing the neighborhood,” said Chad Reischl, co-president of the West Colfax Association of Neighbors.


So Mr. Reischl and his neighbors are legitimately stoked about this. Which is great. Lord knows, West Colfax could certainly use a hand in the gentrification department. I don’t think anyone’s questioning that.


But of course, building a 20-story infill in the middle of the city isn’t necessarily going to win you friends. The Post also gives us what I guess is supposed to be the “balanced” perspective:


An exception is Larry Ambrose, vice president of the Sloan’s Lake Neighborhood Association. Ambrose said he and some neighbors are concerned about inadequate open space and the potential height of high-rise buildings.


I’m not sure what Mr. Ambrose did to this reporter that he doesn’t get a direct quote like Mr. Reischl over across Colfax. Or why Mr. Reischl gets to speak for his association, while Mr. Ambrose is all but characterized as “a grumpy guy and a few neighbors.”


But let’s assume that wasn’t intentional.


What the reporter somehow missed by a mile is that Mr. Ambrose isn’t some angry nut with an ax to grind. This “open spaces” and “height restrictions” he speaks of are actually written into the zoning codes.


Yes, dear reporter, he’s not making it up. Why the big brush off?


And as it turned out a few months later, the neighborhood associations of West Highland, Barnum and Jefferson Park have thrown in their lots with Mr. Ambrose. They’re working hard to convince the planning commission that the commentary, which is characterized by the Post piece as positive, is anything but.


According to a collective statement released by the concerned neighborhood associations:


Although, EFG has publicly claimed that 65% of the comments were favorable to their development, the truth is that 67% of the comments were negative or had serious reservations.


If this is true, it’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed. (Though to EFG’s credit, the Planning Commission reported it their way, per its quotes to the Post.)


The concerned neighbors have also made clear that they aren’t enemies of development. They realize the infill will happen in some form. They’re just not fans of 20-story buildings jutting out of nowhere:


This is the largest, most important development in the history of Northwest Denver. It will have impacts on our neighborhoods that will be dramatic and far reaching. If it is done wisely, with sensitivity and a good sense of economics and design, it will benefit all.


So there you have it. Two legitimate arguments. And a newspaper that caters to the developer for reasons I can’t fathom.


Really, Post. I’d be more inclined to overlook this if your editorial board weren’t fawning over the recent achievements of the RTD. Private citizens doing that in a letter to the editor? No problem. But you’re journalists. And journalism is not cheerleading.


Quite the opposite, actually. We count on you to hold the noses of developers and public officials to the grindstone.


Here’s some advice from this reader. Ask the hard questions. Dig deeper. Work hard to appear balanced, even if the result isn’t an adorable, sunshiny headline.


Because it really looks like you dropped the ball on this one.


As if to drive home that Mr. Ambrose and his friends are big doo-doo heads and spanners in the works of progress, the piece ends with this gem:


The nearby Denver Metro Village complex rises 18 stories.


Yes, dear reporter. And I’m sure the neighbors just love it.

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