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State Sen. Aguilar to lead Denver’s pushback on gentrification

Author: Joey Bunch - October 3, 2018 - Updated: October 3, 2018

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AguilarColorado state Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, speaks on the floor of the upper chamber in April 2018. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

We now know what Colorado state Sen. Irene Aguilar will do as a second act to her service in the legislature. She will lead Denver’s effort to manage gentrification’s roll through established neighborhoods.

Aguilar, a medical doctor, was term-limited this year.

The Denver Mayor’s Office announced Tuesday that she’s the choice to be the first director of Denver’s Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team, called NEST. Mayor Michael Hancock announced the program in his State of the City address in July.

Across the fast-growing city, new residents and commerce have driven out established businesses and long-time residents, which has brewed into a fight that could linger into Hancock’s re-election chances next year.

Aguilar will work to “ensure that residents benefit from Denver’s prosperity and success.”

“Sen. Aguilar is a true community champion and an excellent pick to spearhead the important work of NEST and our commitment to working alongside longtime residents and businesses,” Hancock said in a statement. “She has an incredible record of shaping positive change for Denver residents, and we look forward to her being a driving force behind NEST.”

The plan calls for bringing in community partners and deploying the resources of the office of Economic Development; Denver Human Services; Human Rights and Community Partnerships; Department of Finance, Community Planning and Development; Department of Public Health and Environment; and the Office of Children’s Affairs.

“I’m honored to serve as the city’s leader in collaborating with many organizations to ensure that equity and choice remain throughout all of Denver’s neighborhoods,” Aguilar said in a statement. “Throughout my career I have strived to meet people where they are, to listen and to be a trusted advocate. NEST is a tremendously exciting and important initiative, and I look forward to serving the residents, businesses and neighborhoods of Denver.”

The Office of Economic Development will soon hire a contractor to help better understand how public and private investments shape neighborhoods and allow city planners to mitigate impacts.

The city also will put more “financial empowerment and neighborhood resource centers” in areas of concern to provide coaching and services, as well as housing resources and other assistance to help locals, the mayor’s office said in a press release.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.