Shorter AME shows sup­port for Ditch the Ditch, op­posed to plans for ex­pan­sion

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom McGhee

The con­gre­ga­tion of Den­ver’s old­est African-Amer­i­can church on Sun­day showed its sup­port for Ditch the Ditch, a group that has sued Den­ver to pre­vent the pro­posed ex­pan­sion of In­ter­state 70 through the com­mu­ni­ties of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea.

Ad­dress­ing the con­gre­ga­tion and res­i­dents of the com­mu­ni­ties hosted by the Shorter Com­mu­nity African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church, the Rev. Ti­mothy E. Tyler, Shorter’s se­nior pas­tor, called for mind­ful devel­op­ment — and for Mayor Michael Han­cock and the City Coun­cil “to con­sider an al­ter­na­tive route.”

The low-in­come neigh­bor­hoods sur­rounded by heavy in­dus­try in north­east Den­ver face de­mo­li­tion of homes for a ma­jor con­struc­tion project at a time when hous­ing costs are sky­rock­et­ing and gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is forc­ing low-in­come res­i­dents out of some ar­eas.

The project re­quires the de­mo­li­tion of 56 homes and 17 busi­nesses in Elyria-Swansea and sur­round­ing ar­eas.

“The ex­pan­sion of the 70 free­way will cause ir­repara­ble harm to a com­mu­nity that al­ready has over­whelm­ing eco­log­i­cal and cul­tural vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties,” Tyler said. “It is time for Mayor Han­cock and the city of Den­ver to treat un­der­served res­i­dents of Den­ver as hu­man be­ings and stake­hold­ers and not as pawns and dis­pos­able ob­jects.”

City lead­ers of­ten fail to lis­ten to the con­cerns of cit­i­zens, he added. “Peo­ple over progress, peo­ple over busi­ness,” he said.

Tyler led the con­gre­ga­tion in pray­ing that city lead­ers “do the right thing.”

The Colorado De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion has won fed­eral ap­proval for the $1.2 bil­lion ex­pan­sion through the heav­ily Latino neigh­bor­hoods of Elyria-Swansea and Globeville.

Through Elyria-Swansea, where an ex­ist­ing but de­cay­ing viaduct bi­sected the com­mu­nity 53 years ago, the 1.8-mile span would be re­placed by a be­low­grade high­way be­tween Brighton Boule­vard and Colorado Boule­vard, with a 4-acre park­land cap planned atop part of it as one of many con­ces­sions by CDOT.

“It is very im­por­tant to get as many peo­ple in­volved as pos­si­ble” in fight­ing the project, said Tom Clarke, a re­tired ar­chi­tect, and mem­ber of Ditch the Ditch.

CDOT has re­fused to con­sider al­ter­nate routes that would cause less de­struc­tion than the present pro­posal, Clarke said.

The spe­cial wor­ship ser­vice also cel­e­brated more than 52 pro­gres­sive com­mu­nity groups, faith and civic lead­ers and in­di­vid­u­als for their part­ner­ship with Shorter to do so­cial jus­tice work in metro Den­ver.

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