The Urban Land Conservancy celebrates the achievements of its partnerships that create and preserve nonprofit facilities and affordable housing for communities in metro Denver. ULC’s Monthly Partner Spotlight is awarded to partners who demonstrate the value of collaboration, furthering our mission to improve the lives of Metro Denver residents through our real estate investments and community assets.

Congratulations to our June 2017 Partner Spotlight of the Month:  Councilman Paul D. López, District 3, City and County of Denver!

For Councilman Paul López, it was a drive leaving downtown Denver towards the Westwood neighborhood that led him to run for city council just over ten years ago. As López approached his neighborhood, he couldn’t help but notice the blatant disparities separating West Denver from the sprawling and vibrant downtown. Though just miles apart, they looked like two completely different cities. López – exhausted by his neighborhood’s portrayal – decided to take matters into his own hands by running for city council.

In July of 2007, Councilman Paul D. López was elected to represent Denver’s District 3. At just 28 years old, López was the youngest councilmember in Denver to take the oath of office. Nearly ten years and two full terms later, López is now serving his third and final term as councilman.

Councilman Paul D. López of the City and County of Denver's District 3.

López is often described by others as an organizer. In college, he fought to improve recruitment, retention and graduation of low-income students.  In his post-graduate career, López worked for the janitor’s union, ensuring worker’s rights. Throughout his past endeavors, López recognized the value of community organization and engagement to promote change. In 2006, when he made the commitment to run for local office, López relied on a community centric model to ensure that both himself – and his local constituents – would have a seat at the table.

Throughout his tenure in Denver’s City Council, López has fought to showcase the value of his district, and to change the minds and hearts of local decision makers. His first few years in office directly coincided with the start of the recession, which meant severe budget cuts for the city. Despite working in one of the harshest financial climates in decades, López asked the city to prioritize his district, instead of depleting their already minimal stream of funding. Against all odds, López has successfully championed his district, and put neighborhoods like Westwood and Sun Valley directly in front of local stakeholders.

Today, District 3 has new infrastructure, pipelines for bike lanes, well-paved streets and a handful of new parks, the first in decades.  Under López’ tenure, District 3 now has a recycling rate just over 50 percent, up from 12 percent when he first took office. And when asked about his greatest accomplishment, López still manages to see the bigger picture.

López at the US 6 Bridges Celebration. | Photo courtesy, Councilman Paul D. López
López at the US 6 Bridges Celebration. | Photo courtesy, Councilman Paul D. López

“When I was elected ten years ago, it was difficult to draw any positive attention to West Denver,” López said. “Over those ten years, these neighborhoods are receiving the attention that they have long deserved. Together, we have successfully removed the layers of invisibility that plagued our community and hid us from public sight. Today, we are seen as a force for positive change in our neighborhoods. I am thankful to the local community members who made it their mission to have our voices heard.”

Urban Land Conservancy deeply values Councilman López’ passionate spirit and dedication to improving the lives of his constituents. Since 2007, ULC has been working with López on eight separate real estate investments in West Denver, each of which relied heavily on the councilman’s partnership. Most recently, ULC completed the construction of the Thriftway Pocket Park and futsal court in Westwood. The park replaced the abandoned Thriftway store, which was seen as a dangerous and unsightly presence by local Westwood residents. ULC worked directly with Councilman López in every stage of the process, from acquisition and demolition in 2014, to the grand opening celebration three years later.

The Councilman has also been instrumental in the development of ULC’s property that sits adjacent to Sheridan Station on the W Line of FasTracks. The property was recently awarded Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), and ULC is in the process of working with development partners Koelbel & CO and Mile High Development to design and construct critically needed affordable housing along this transit corridor. We will be working in direct partnership with Councilman López and his office throughout the entire development process to ensure the surrounding community is included from start to finish. Aaron Miripol, President & CEO of Urban Land Conservancy, is deeply respectful and appreciative of our work together over the past ten years.

The demolition of the old Thriftway building in 2014. | Photo courtesy, ULC
The demolition of the old Thriftway building in 2014. | Photo courtesy, ULC
“If it were not for conversations starting back in 2008 with Councilman Lopez, ULC would not have been able to successfully invest in real estate in Westwood,” Miripol said. “Because of incredible community leaders like the Councilman and our late Board Chair Myrna Hipp, ULC has been able to make a positive impact in a neighborhood that had been overlooked for too long.”

Now in his final term as a Denver City Councilman, it is evident that López has many things he plans to accomplish in the next two years. With the passing of the Westwood Neighborhood Plan in 2016 (a plan that had not been updated in over 30 years), López hopes to see increased funding for infrastructure – especially for biking and pedestrian friendly lanes, a stronger local economy and breaking ground on the long-awaited Westwood Recreation Center.

If his past ten years are anything to show for his remaining years in office, we have no doubt they will be filled with great success. Thank you Councilman López for the continued partnership throughout the years. We look forward to our continued partnership to create opportunities for success for the West Denver community and all of the residents who call District 3 home!

Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Norma Brambila of Westwood Unidos and Councilman Paul D. López

 at the grand opening ceremony ofthe Thriftway Pocket Park.  | Photo courtesy, Denver OED
Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Norma Brambila of Westwood Unidos and Councilman Paul D. López at the grand opening ceremony ofthe Thriftway Pocket Park. | Photo courtesy, Denver OED