March Urban Spectrum Op-ed: A Seat at the Table

By: Norman Harris, Co-Founder of the Holleran Group

Link to Original Article

Born and raised in North East Denver, I share many warm memories about a community we once knew. 

I remember skating in the Dahlia Shopping Center and enjoying fried chicken from the Kapre on Holly Street right after a Pirates football practice at Skyland Rec Center. The hot summer evenings waging epic water wars with homemade water bottle spray guns  until the orange glowing street lights turned on, a signal that it was time to get home before mom came looking for us. Good times!

Today, as I walk down the tree-lined streets highlighted with Victorian homes and 1960’s modern architecture it doesn’t take long to realize the changes sweeping the Park Hill neighborhood.

Over the past 50 years, while other neighborhoods flourished and provided opportunity, Northeast Park Hill has had little economic investment due to redlining practices.

During this same time period, Black families in Park Hill also began to look for places to live which had more opportunities to offer for their families. Simultaneously, White folks and investors began buying the brick homes being deserted. The seeds of gentrification were planted. 

With an unprecedented housing shortage in Denver, these seeds have now sprouted. Without action, the inclusivity and culture we all love are at risk of being eroded as generations of black and brown families are being displaced from Northeast Park Hill. 

In 2017, I formed The Holleran Group which aims to tackle the displacement of African Americans and their culture. As developers, we are committed to engaging the community with opportunities to increase Black equity and help Black businesses build capacity.

Our goal is to disrupt the traditional deficit-based development model by building and growing our neighborhood’s local assets to develop places that build and bridge our social capital. 

We love the character of the neighborhood, we want to empower it and see it thrive. 

In 2020, we joined the Park Hill Golf Course ownership team as a co-developer alongside Westside Investment Partners. 

Our work as co-developers began with leveraging local community leaders. The team we built aligned with both the skill set and passion needed to develop the community utilizing a more inclusive and wealth building strategy. 

Our commitment to the community is authentic and spans decades. Alongside myself, this team includes Wayne Vaden, Ty Hubbard, Herman White, and Erica Wright. 

Wayne has been a very important mentor to me and many others through his 20+ years of coaching track in North East Denver. As an accomplished attorney Wayne’s value to Holleran is immeasurable, providing diligent guidance to our team. His steadiness is a perfect balance to our collective vigor.

Ty Hubbard moved to Denver in 2005 and fell in love with the Five Points neighborhood. He started a company called Space Creators, and established three living communities with more than 350 residents.

Herman White grew up in Park Hill and has been recognized for his leadership within the community as well as within Corporate America. In the community, he chairs The Park Hill Pirates and is a co-founder of the Denver African American Philanthropist – DAAP. He was recognized as one of Denver’s Top 40 Leaders under 40 year of age, and is well versed in strategic planning, organizational change and value creation. 

Erica Wright moved to Denver in 2013 starting her career in nonprofits. She is a creative thinker with a passion for creating change, especially in the social justice space. She’s on the leadership team for the Juneteenth Music Festival and directed the 2020 virtual production.

We believe the Northeast Park Hill neighborhood deserves better than a golf course.

Our common denominator is our love for our community and desire to build a new legacy and model for driving wealth and value back to our people. The Holleran Group has a vision and goal to become the premier community development firm by using a new asset-based development model that builds strong equitable, inclusive, and sustainable communities as well as ensure the Park Hill community, neighbors and supporters a seat at the table.

Why now? To paraphrase Congressman John Lewis and other civil rights leaders, if not now, when? If not us, who?

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