The news that the Book Bar will close after this holiday season is just the latest quake on Tennyson Street in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood. Owner Nicole Hann Sullivan announced that the 10-year old book and wine shop would shutter at the end of January due to rising costs, and her desire to prioritize family. It’s a one two punch for the popular street with the Book Bar news coming just as neighborhood bar Local 46 prepares to close for good on September 30 to make way for 90 apartment units.
Drew Strever, a bartender at Local 46 ever since it first opened on 46th and Tennyson Street, stated that the community is devastated by the closing of the bar. The owner did not renew the bar’s lease, and sold the property and two adjoining ones for 7 million dollars. Local 46 wants to make sure the community knows it did not “sell out.”
“It’s like my church,” said Don Carleno, a patron of Local 46. “Watching them tear down those buildings one at a time, building ugly apartment buildings hasn’t been great.”
During the last month, Local 46 has been packed with members of the community, counting down the days before it closes. Posted on the front window is a sign that reads: “Community is something that has to come organically, it can’t be forced or manipulated but it is unmistakable when you sense it. Local 46 ended up being more than we ever could have imagined, a home to many, on both sides of the bar.”
Tennyson Street in Northwest Denver has undergone many changes in its long history, but a recent explosion of property development in the area is changing the character of one of Denver’s top destinations. The street, that once was full of bungalows and small businesses and saw streetcars travel between old Elitch Gardens and the Oriental Theater is experiencing growing pains.
Almost all of the new projects will include ground floor commercial and two floors dedicated to housing, increasing Tennyson’s population density and continuing the trend of removing smaller homes, stores, and restaurants to make room for larger buildings. Within the last year, several older homes have been razed to make way for multi-unit developments.
“I’ve seen the neighborhood really transition,” said one local in César Chávez Park who didn’t want to give his name. “It is what it is: gentrification. There’s only one Hispanic family left on the street. Denver keeps building these places, and we’re trying to preserve something that’s unstoppable.”
Five of these developments are on properties in the heart of Tennyson’s most trafficked area, between 38th and 44th Avenue, and for some months have remained fenced off with piles of rubble from building demolitions. Construction began on several projects just at the start of September.
Jimmy Funkhauser, owner of the outdoor store Feral, located on Tennyson Street, and a leader of the Tennyson Berkeley Business Association, says the demolition and construction has affected foot traffic to his store and made parking for destination shoppers difficult. According to Funkhauser, even employees struggle to find a parking spot due to the volume of contractors and workers now in the area.
“When a street has eight to ten developments happening all at once, and each one has sidewalk closures, and construction everywhere, and contractors parking everywhere, you feel it,” said Funkhauser.
Despite the community reservations, developers say they are trying to stay true to the spirit of Tennyson. Jeremy Zidell, Founder and Managing Partner of Rue Realty, says that his company is trying to fit in with Tennyson’s legacy. Rue Realty is redeveloping the old Green Door Furniture Store, located across the street from César Chávez Park, into The Lantern, apartments with first floor business space, a ground floor patio and a rooftop deck.
“When your intent is to do the best long term thing for the neighborhood, even when you don’t live there, it’s a very careful, delicate, and detailed process,” Zidell said. “Our company wants to leave the best quality fingerprints and legacies in the neighborhoods that we’re doing business in. The building is in good hands.”
Currently, scaffolding has gone up around the The Lantern and Rue Realty developers are shooting for a Spring 2023 opening. Other properties requiring 18 months of full construction will be finished by early 2024, according to Nick Wright, a project manager with Schneider Building Company that is working on 4353 Tennyson. The coming years will be full of familiar parking and construction issues, and business owners like Funkhauser are skeptical as to the true intentions of the developers.
“I’m skeptical because historically every time the city has taken one step forward, the developers are ready to pounce and exploit the issue,” Funkhauser said.
The developers of the Local 46 property say they will keep the distinctive facade on their new building. However, it was never the sign that made the place unique, and even when they do manage to find a new location, Local 46 bartender Drew Strever says it could never replace the special community that makes up the Tennyson neighborhood.
“We couldn’t have done this without them. We’ve always been very local and community driven. We’re going to miss this area, because it’s special, and we made it that way. This neighborhood is partially what it is because of who we’ve been,” Strever said. “On behalf of all the management here: we’ll miss this neighborhood, we love it, and the people are what made it.”