Neighborhoods, communities, housing developments, city streets, etc. are commonly named for adjacent landmarks, nearby places of cultural interest, historic figures, etc. But what happens when namely origins are controversial and in direct conflict with current events? One popular Denver neighborhood is currently in the throes of this plight.
Located just east of the Mile High City, a 7.5-square-mile neighborhood built on the site of the city’s former airport is now bustling with some 30,000-plus residents. Home prices average $700k; schools are exceptional, and parks and open space are plentiful. A model for urban redevelopment worldwide. The neighborhood is Stapleton.
Until recent years, many of Stapleton’s residents believed the name of their neighborhood to just be a tribute to the former Stapleton International Airport. Originally known as Denver Municipal Airport, it opened for take-off in 1929 with two hangars and an airmail building. In 1944, the operation was renamed Stapleton Airfield after Benjamin F. Stapleton, an airport founder, and Denver mayor.
Fast forward to Feb. 27 1995, when for reasons such as insufficient space, noise ordinances filed by surrounding neighborhoods, and routine struggles with Denver’s weather and wind patterns, Stapleton International Airport (as it became known) was decommissioned. The very next day, nearly 15 miles away, Denver International Airport, North America’s largest airport, opened.
What was to become of the former airport was in the hands of business leaders, civic officials, and citizens. The team assembled to create the Green Book, a collection of guiding principles for the redevelopment of Stapleton that included specifications for architectural diversity, affordable housing, tree-lined streets, water-wise landscaping, and energy-efficient building standards. It encouraged diversity among age, income, race, ethnicity, and housing prices and styles, while emphasizing the need to attract families back to the city as opposed to losing them to the suburbs. The vision also included the creation of opportunities for significant minority participation in the development process and employment.
Perform a basic Internet search for Stapleton today and you’ll see airport namesake, Benjamin F. Stapleton, was much more than a figurehead within Denver’s economic and gubernatorial history; he was also a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Residents, and non-residents alike, have pointed to this affiliation throughout the neighborhood’s two-decade existence noting the need for a name change. In line with surmounting nationwide cultural shifts and anti-racism uprisings, the Master Community Association (MCA), which oversees neighborhood maintenance and operation, has unanimously
voted for a change of name. Steps are currently underway to rename the neighborhood. Stay tuned for developments.
Front Porch, 10/09/2015; PHOTO Gallery: From Runways to Neighborhoods, Stapleton’s History in 50 Photos
Front Porch, 10/01/2015; What is the Green Book?
Front Porch, 10/01/2017; Who was Ben Stapleton?