DENVER (CBS4)– Thousands of people have signed a petition to bring a historically Black neighborhood back to its roots. The online petition calls on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and neighborhood developers to revert RiNo, River North Arts District, back to its original name of Five Points.
According to the Arts District, RiNo is nonprofit arts organization, not a neighborhood. RiNo is within Five Points. The petition to re-normalize the Art District’s name back to Five Points was started by Shannon Martin, a Denver native.
“In an effort to reclaim our spaces, our communities, and our history I have made it my duty to work to regain the essence of Denver Colorado’s historically Black neighborhood,” Martin wrote, “While many of the neighborhoods and parks in Colorado have been renamed because of their racist and oppressive natures, the community and I believe that it is just as oppressive to rename a historically Black neighborhood ANYTHING other than that.”
The Five Points neighborhood in Denver was often called the Harlem of the West.
Ryan Cobbins, owner of Coffee at the Point, made a point to incorporate Five Point’s history in his menu. Cobbins named sandwiches after notable places and people who left a mark on the community, like Dr. Justina Ford and Welton.
“We wanted to make sure that we paid homage and respect to the neighborhood,” said Cobbins, who will celebrate his restaurant’s 10th anniversary this year.
Cobbins, who’s also on the board of Five Points Business Improvement District, says he’s indifferent about the petition to remove the RiNo name. He says Five Points is a significant enough area, that a name on a sign can’t erase the history and emotions embedded in the neighborhood.
“As a business owner, gentrification means we have more people coming in to buy product and help us pay our bills on time. Gentrification to somebody else means a bulldozer coming down,” said Cobbins.
A new study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), found Denver is the second-most gentrified city in America.
Tracy Weil, Executive Director and RiNo Co-Founder, says the RiNo board is following the petition and listening to the concerns of the community.
In a statement to CBS4 from Weil, “As one of 26 state certified art districts, we have always been inclusive of the five historic neighborhoods of Globeville, Cole, Five Points and Elryia-Swansea that we are a part of.
We are focused on advocating and promoting the artists, makers, galleries and small businesses in the area through our projects and programs. These include CRUSH WALLS, RiNo Made Salons, the RiNo Support Fund, and Social Impact Grants to support organizations in Five Points, Globeville, Cole, and Elyria-Swansea that work directly with the BIPOC community championing social justice, equity, and the eradication of racial discrimination.
We will continue to work with the community to ensure the Art District, as an organization, honors the rich culture and history of the Five Points neighborhood and its residents.”
RiNoBoard Members, Martin and District 9 Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca will meet to discuss the petition Wednesday.