The opening of Thriftway Pocket Park Thursday was the culmination of a four-year-long journey to destroy the dangerous, blighted Thriftway building and replace it with a safe community space for the Westwood neighborhood.
The park is an example of efforts to revitalize Westwood, with multiple construction sites bordering the park itself. While development efforts require work from multiple parties, Mayor Hancock thanked community members for their work and said the park was “a result of grassroots activity.”
Children with Westwood Unidos and Groundwork Denver were able to celebrate the opening by playing on the new futsal court and lounging around the new community space, drinking Capri-suns and sharing food.
Ultimately, the park stands as a victory for the neighborhood and is the product of work by people like Norma* Brambila, the Community Connector at Westwood Unidos, who has been a resident of Westwood for more than 20 years. She helped organize Westword Unidos’ outreach to figure out what families wanted in the space
Councilman Paul Lopez discussed the history of the old Thriftway Building, which was a shop he used to frequent as a child. The shop turned into a laundromat, whose owners became negligent and allowed the building to slowly deteriorate. The building became a danger to those nearby, including children at a day care bordering the building.
Lopez began his attempts to call attention to the area soon after being elected as a councilman in 2007. In January 2013, the Trust for Public Land began its efforts to acquire the land, with the assistance of the Urban Land Conservancy. The Denver Office of Economic Development aided in funding the process, along with the demolition of the Thriftway Building, which occurred in September 2014.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Norma Brambila and Groundwork Denver.