Measuring a city’s progress culturally typically goes hand in hand with the political vibes of a community. Denver is no exception. The November elections give reason to evaluate where the city might head from what has been achieved.
In the 90s, the push was to fund and open the most advanced, major international airport in the United States. The stores are now just filling up. Post 911, the city found the will power to encourage urban renewal through major high rise developments and the reshaping of cultural institutions, mainly the Daniel Libeskind designed Denver Art Museum. The final phase of that project is now underway with the scheduled completion of The Art, a hotel. The impacts of these developments markedly changes what can be possible in a city.
Unfortunately, the focus on building removes the other key ingredients to the strength of a viable community. It is not enough to rely on “build it and they will come” policies. The city has to have sustainable, income producing businesses that give a community life. Current administration leaders, from Mayor Hancock to Governor Hickenlooper have to be applauded for getting the message out there – that Denver is a world class city that should be culturally significant. It was of course Hickenlooper who signed the city up for The Clifford Still Musuem – a gold mine for abstract expressionism followers.
A walk – or as is likely in Denver – a Drive through a neighborhood can reveal a lot. Cherry Creek North, the closest neighborhood to Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive or even the state’s gem of fashion, Aspen, has struggled with the constant goals of developers with the reality of time trapped neighbors. Due to citizen objections, Cherry Creek North has been stymied from ideal development. And yes the neighbors are high thinking that their little “slice of heaven” can sustain itself on their misguided neighborhood objectives.
This past Friday offered a glimmer of hope for Cherry Creek North. While Fall Fashion Week was over more than a week ago, Cherry Creek North threw it’s “fashion bash” with Piatxi Pizza and Bombay Clay Oven‘s Samosas for the general admission fans. The higher donor ticket to the event received a “tent” where their Vodka and Colorado wine was served with, yes, Pizza and Samosas. I’m not out of place to think that the Hillbillies running the neighborhood have hardly attended more than the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. The fact that the actual runway show was upbeat, extremely well done and had an energy made attendees and the store owners possibly believe that Denver’s Wilhelmina and Donna Baldwin Agency can find enough work to keep fashion at the forefront in the city as well as in the mountains. The problem in Cherry Creek North is that “average” is always passed off as being “excellent.” A glance at Hermes sitting a few doors down from Xofficio is the dead give-away to what is sustainable in Denver’s “Rodeo Drive” currently. To achieve more Hermes and less Xofficio, or more Mario Di Leon and Sol and less Suit Supply consumers have to start appearing with standards. Can that be done in Denver? Without smoking some of Denver’s best, I believe the answer is yes. Can it be done with new leadership? Likely not. It will need to be done with the appearance of a refined consumer desiring to venture out into Denver’s best neighborhoods. With the success of Rhino and Highlands Cherry Creek North has a lot to compete with today.