DENVER (CBS4) – A devastating fire devoured the center of a Denver neighborhood. Now the site will become a development center for children.

Holly Square in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood burned 4 years ago. Now a $5 million grant will help turn what was destroyed by a gang fight into the Nancy P. Anschutz Boys & Girls Club.

Since the fire community activists turned the pillars that were left from the fire into what they call the “12 Peace Poles.” They also paved the way for kids to return with a basketball court.

The donation from The Anschutz Foundation will bring in an organization that not only helps children, but its presence alone helps to push crime out of communities.

“It just put the icing on the cake that nobody cares, that it’s a war zone,” Terrance Roberts with the Prodigal Son Initiative said about the Holly Square fire.

Roberts vividly remembers the day gang members threw firebombs into the Holly Square Shopping Center. He said a touchstone for the community was destroyed.

“It was a pretty bad day. It was the exact opposite of what’s going on today,” Roberts said.

holly square map Site Of Fire Started By Gang War To Be Home For Boys & Girls Club

(credit: CBS)

“Today we are happy to see the first steps of a return to this community investment,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said.

The Rising Phoenix is now represented in the 30,000 square foot building.

“After a lot of work with the community this is a new beginning,” said John Arigoni, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver.

The Anschutz Foundation is a longtime supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs.

The Urban Land Conservancy bought the land that the old shopping center sat on, but it was the community’s voice over a 2-year span that helped to decide what would rise from the ashes.

“What’s important in every neighborhood: family, children, people having jobs, people being able to work together and live together in harmony,” LaDawn Sullivan with the group Strengthening Neighborhoods said.

Something good will now happen for thousands of children living in northeast Denver.

“If you do good things, good things will happen,” at-risk youth Nubra Rodriguez said.

The goal is to have the Boys & Girls Club open by school year next year.


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