The Johnson & Wales University Campus Could Be An Amazing Space. Don’t Let It Be Lost To Development.
An Open Letter to Denver City Councilmembers Christopher Herndon (District 8), Robin Kniech (At-large) and Debbie Ortega (At-large):
I want to direct the City Council’s attention to Johnson & Wales University closing its campus at Quebec and Montview in my neighborhood. The Greater Park Hill News reported last month that students will remain on the site until the end of the 20/21 school year, and it is unclear “what will happen with the campus next summer.” It is obvious the beautiful 26-acre campus will be sold. While there are many urgent and important issues on all fronts facing Denver at this time of unprecedented crises, we as a community need to get well ahead of what will surely be a controversial situation over the future of this amazing greenspace and collection of buildings.
I urge the Council to be completely transparent, at the very beginning and onward, with any and all dealings with potential developers for the site. I believe, as do many of your constituents in this district and beyond, that preservation of the green space and the unique elements of this campus should be the paramount goal in this situation. Some of those unique elements are: Centennial Hall (on the National Register of Historic Places, which underwent a recent $17 million renovation), Whatley Chapel with its newly restored organ, dormitories that have recently undergone $48 million worth of renovations, state-of-the-art culinary laboratories and buildings, and Colorado’s first Carillon Bell Tower.
Please involve your constituents and taxpayers before any action is taken or any solution decided on the fate of Johnson & Wales. In the last few years, we have had too many “public input meetings” that were scheduled too late in the process to do any good. This must not happen again. It would be tragic to lose this important Denver space to the kind of condo/retail development that has occurred at the CU Health Sciences Center location at 8th Avenue and Colorado Blvd, especially since Johnson & Wales is not even located on a commercial corridor. In fact, there are very severe traffic congestion problems on Quebec Street already that will need to be considered in any future plan.
The Office of Economic Development & Opportunity within Denver City & County government offers tax breaks and incentives to attract commercial businesses to and within our state. Why not use such tools to attract a local or other institution of higher learning to an academic-ready site? Community Colleges of Denver or Metro State University could perhaps use an additional campus site. Metro State University and the University of Denver both have highly regarded hospitality degree programs that could make good use of the Johnson & Wales advanced facilities that are already built and ready to go. DU used this campus as its law school for several years, demonstrating that multi-campus locations are a workable option.
Affordable housing is another possibility for good use of the property’s many dormitories. Denver is in dire need of housing solutions but has limited plans to meet the need. The City could also make efficient use of existing buildings on the campus as service centers for the residents, such as job training or public health and wellness.
Thank you for reviewing this letter, and I call on the Council to involve the community from the very beginning of this process in determining the future of the Johnson & Wales campus.
Barbara Berryman, Park Hill
Click here for news coverage of the Johnson and Wales closure. The university is slated to close at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. What would you like to see happen to the campus? Send your letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.