1) Participatory Budgeting Ballot Results
The winners of Denver’s first-ever participatory budgeting ballots were announced in February. The new Participatory Budgeting Program enabled Denver residents to vote on how a portion of the budget would be spent and which projects on the ballots would be implemented. $2 million was allocated from the Denver budget for the program, with $1 million being awarded to projects on a citywide ballot and the other $1 million being divided among three separate neighborhood ballots.
Most Northeast Denver neighborhoods were permitted to vote on the “East ballot.” Four infrastructure projects were placed on the ballot, and all residents living in NE Denver and all students attending school in its neighborhoods were eligible to vote online for their favorite projects, regardless of age level or immigration status. The four options on the East ballot included providing water fountains in neighborhood parks, improving sidewalks along major streets, upgrading the features of New Freedom Park, or adding bike paths along 12th and Quebec. $300,000 was provided from the Denver budget to fund the winning project, and Northeast residents were allowed to vote throughout the fall of 2022 until the polls closed in late November.
The winner of the East ballot was the project to upgrade New Freedom Park. Located in the East Colfax neighborhood, this project will allow the city to install several new features in the park, including chess boards, barbecue grills, drinking fountains, shade structures, and playground amenities.
Residents in Northeast Denver were also able to vote for projects on the citywide ballot. Eight infrastructure projects were included on the citywide ballot, and $1 million from the Denver budget will be used to fund the four projects that received the most votes. Forty percent of the money will be spent widening the sidewalks around Athmar Park, while $225,000 will fund three new shower trailers for homeless individuals, and $200,000 will be spent on building five new tiny homes for unhoused families. Additionally, the remaining $175,000 will help Denver cultivate new community gardens throughout the city and renovate existing gardens in various neighborhoods.
2) Oblio’s Pizzeria Has a New Owner
Twenty-seven years after founding Oblio’s Pizzeria, original owner Dawn McKay has sold her Park Hill restaurant to Denver-native Drew Leach. The 34-year-old Leach has been working in restaurants in Colorado and California for the past 15 years. He says that eating at Oblio’s as a kid made this a nostalgic restaurant to purchase.
Oblio’s Pizzeria has been a staple for families in the Park Hill neighborhood. Located at 6115 E. 22nd Avenue, McKay and her family offered unique pizzas and hosted neighborhood events. Unfortunately the pandemic confronted the McKay family with severe financial struggles. Reduced numbers of customers and rising costs were detrimental, and in 2021 they launched a GoFundMe campaign to avoid closing the business. The neighborhood demonstrated its support for Oblio’s by helping to raise approximately $40,000, but this was not enough to sustain the business and in 2022 McKay opted to sell the restaurant.
New owner Drew Leach says that he does not plan to make drastic changes to the atmosphere of the restaurant or the items on the menu. Oblio’s will keep the classic pizzas that it has always offered, but will also add new pizzas to expand the menu. The pricing is perhaps the biggest transformation, as the 16-inch pizzas that were previously over $20 will now be priced down into the teens. Leach also plans on expanding the hours by serving lunch on weekdays and by staying open later on weekends. Regarding the interior, renovations will include increasing the seating to accommodate more customers, adding white tiles to brighten the restaurant, and building a bigger bar to extend it outside.
3) Therizo Café is now Copper Door Coffee
The permanently closed Therizo Café in Park Hill has been purchased and reopened by Copper Door Coffee Roasters. Copper Door was formed in 2006 by Park Hill resident Sinjin Eberle as a wholesale business operating from his garage. But in 2014 Hannah Ulbrich—a fellow Park Hill resident—purchased Copper Door, began opening in-store coffee shops, and grew the company into a multi-million dollar business. As Denver’s only entirely female-owned coffee roaster, Copper Door also prioritizes supporting women throughout the coffee industry. Over the last decade, Ulbrich has helped Copper Door continually expand, and this Park Hill shop at 2890 Fairfax Street is its 5th location in the Metro area. One change that accompanies the new menu is that the coffee shop will no longer serve beer or wine. However, Park Hill is now the only Copper Door location that serves a special Kombucha drink that features fermented tea, flavored juice, and healthy vitamins.
4) Newsies: A School Musical by McAuliffe Students
The theater program at McAuliffe International School is preparing to showcase its first-ever all-school musical. Over 90 students are performing in a production of Newsies, and the musical will run from March 6 through March 9. The McAuliffe production derives from the hit 1992 musical film of the same name. Based on the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, the musical tells the true story of poor newspaper delivery boys in New York City going on strike and refusing to deliver papers after being exploited by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, whose name would later be associated with the prestigious Pulitzer Prize award in the journalism industry. The cast of the original movie included Christian Bale, Bill Pullman, and Robert Duval. In 2012 the film was adapted into a Broadway musical, and the production won two Tony Awards for Best Choreography and Best Original Score. Now the students at McAuliffe will play the memorable characters from Newsies, tell the inspiring story of the strike, and showcase their musical and theatrical skills for neighborhood audiences.
Front Porch photos by Christie Gosch