Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood is about to say goodbye to its name — and a decades-long community debate about that name.
The 11 elected neighborhood delegates on the Stapleton Master Community Association (MCA) declared Sunday that they’ll vote to recommend changing the name at a meeting Wednesday.
For Dana Elkind, president of the MCA’s Board of Directors, Sunday’s announcement wasn’t about revising history. It was about doing something to get his community on the right side of it.
“I have two very bright children, they’re in their 30s now, both of them went to law school, and my older son said, ‘Social change usually doesn’t happen through democracy,’” Elkind told The Post.
“Social change, this type of social change, is about people making the right choice. And I think that our MCA is making the right choice.”
The neighborhood had been christened in honor of former Denver Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton and built, starting in 2001, on the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.
Given the ex-mayor’s associations with the Ku Klux Klan, the Stapleton name has been the subject of intense deliberation within the neighborhood for years. The temperatures of those discussions increased again after the death of George Floyd on May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Denver Public School Board member Tay Anderson put Stapleton on notice with a tweet Saturday morning in which he said the community would “have ONE WEEK to change their name … if they do NOT we will march through their neighborhood to show them #BlackLivesMatter.”
Anderson deferred credit for the MCA’s announcement Sunday, noting that he was “honored to stand on the shoulders of Dr. Gregory Diggs,” the founding co-president of “Rename St*pleton For All” who passed away in 2018.
“He’s in a lot of our minds,” Liz Stalnaker, board chair of “Rename St*pleton,” said of Diggs. “He worked so hard and was one of the first residents of this community. And didn’t get to see this.”
Anderson said the MCA decision was a “small victory that we need to make sure we turn into a much larger one.” He vowed his focus would turn to school names, logos and mascots within DPS that don’t align “with our core values. And not honoring those who sought to keep individuals suppressed.”
Specifically, Anderson said that he’d been approached about the Rebels’ nickname at Denver South. The board member also expressed concerns over George Washington High School, Thomas Jefferson High School and the Stephen Knight Center for Early Education, because the late Denver businessman for whom the school is named, Anderson said, “was a segregationist.”
The MCA recommendation will be followed by a vote from a community board of directors that includes two representatives from Brookfield Properties Development, the community’s master developer. Brookfield would also have to approve of any name change, as would the City and County of Denver.
The developer had already begun phasing out the name from signage in the neighborhood roughly a year ago, said Brian Fennelly, Brookfield’s vice president and chief financial officer.
“Our approach has always been that we’ll support what the community wants to do,” said Fennelly, who noted that a board vote had yet to be scheduled but was expected to take place soon.
City Councilman Chris Herndon released a statement Sunday that the city of Denver was “fully prepared” to support the name change and that he had asked Mayor Michael Hancock to remove Stapleton as the neighborhood identifier within the city infrastructure going forward.
“I am encouraged to see the neighborhood coming together to work toward creating significant, lasting change,” Herndon’s statement continued.
Former gubernatorial candidate and state treasurer Walker Stapleton, the great-grandson of the former Denver mayor, tweeted late Sunday afternoon that he was “disappointed only that (the democratic) process (was) overlooked; votes cast multiple times by neighborhood residents … BUT … IF … changing a name brings more equity, fairness and opportunity for Denverites and specifically Coloradans of Color, I’m all IN.”
A referendum on the neighborhood name was put to a vote of property owners last summer, with more than 65% of participating voters opting to retain it.
That vote has been criticized by some community leaders since, and Elkind said that while he would prefer to see name changes settled by the populace, “we had such a bad turnout (in 2019) … what we got was the feeling that people don’t care. I think it’s time to care.”
One MCA delegate said he felt “Central Park” was a popular alternative. Elkind says he’s a fan of “Arrow Park” and hopes that families will engage with community officials in the renaming process.
“(There are) people who aren’t going to like it,” Elkind said. “My feeling is that we’re doing the right thing, and if it doesn’t really hurt anybody to make this change and makes a lot of other people feel great, how can that be a bad thing?
“Let’s do something nice. I think that’s the bottom line. Let’s show we can do something nice.”
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