Tina Griego, The Colorado Independent’s new managing editor, appeared on Colorado Public Radio this morning to discuss “Gone to Market,” her recent essay about Denver.
Griego’s story, a first person account of the changing city she found upon returning to Denver after four years in Richmond, focused on her family’s hunt for affordable housing in a growing, rapidly gentrifying new Mile High City. The Griegos wound up buying a home in Fort Collins because affordable housing in Denver was out of reach and because her husband is working on faculty at CSU.
Listen to the full story here.
“Denver is too expensive for us,” she told CPR’s Nathan Heffel for the program Colorado Matters. “We could not afford to live in the neighborhood we used to live. And so that was definitely a factor.”
Griego’s story “resonated with a lot of people across the Front Range,” Heffel said, and he asked if she expected the level of response it received. Griego acknowledged she’s not the first to write about an affordable housing crisis, gentrification, and displacement in Denver, but she says her own take might have offered a different window into something about which many might have become inured.
“I think perhaps it’s just because I was away for four years and coming in and seeing it with fresh eyes, and then being able to write from that perspective. Maybe it was the distance that allowed people to kind of connect with it in a way,” she said. “I was really stunned by the scale of change that had taken place in a relatively short period of time.”
As she reported her story, she told Heffel, she kept pondering something: Is Denver too late? Is the market moving so quickly that the city might not catch up? Whether Denver can find a sweet spot between market forces and public policy in a way that can harness the energy of reinvestment— and keep it sustainable— is an open question, she said on the program.
She hopes Denver can find a way to channel investment so the people who live here won’t be forcibly displaced, like a renter whose landlord decides to cash in and sell the building in order to turn into into high-market-rate apartments.
“I think we have to be listening to our neighborhood groups, to people who have been there and made investments in our communities,” she said. “The city doesn’t have the resources to do this and I’m not sure it’s the city’s role in and of itself to kind of shape a neighborhood … but it’s that marriage to what a city can bring to a table with what the community wants and where the community is going— and market.”
As a former columnist for both The Rocky Mountain and The Denver Post, Griego also noticed another big change in the past four years: an upended media landscape. When she left Denver, she was the only metro columnist left in the city. When she returned, the newsroom of her former paper had been slashed by a third.
“What’s happened on the media landscape in Denver is tragic,” she said.
But the journalists left are still hustling, she said, and she noted the rise of smaller for-profit and nonprofit outlets, like Denverite — and, of course, this publication.
“The Colorado Independent is a nonprofit, tiny but mighty, we like to say,” she said. “We try to get out there and cover what we can within our resources, but we are donation-funded, so it’s one of those things where you’re seeing outlets come up … the spirit is alive, the ambition and the desire is alive to tell the stories of the city. And it is a matter of ‘How do we best tell these stories with what we have right now?’”
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