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People gather outside Loretto Heights to grieve trees being cut down for development

People gather outside Loretto Heights to grieve trees being cut down for development
Posted at 4:27 AM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 06:27:42-04

DENVER — Neighbors around Loretto Heights gathered Sunday to grieve the removal of many large trees as redevelopment moves forward.

Loretto Height’s historic building dates back to the late 1800s.

About a month ago, Denver City Council approved a bill for final consideration to move forward with redevelopment of the land.

Mark Witkiewicz is the project manager for the Loretto Heights redevelopment. He says after the property was purchased three years ago, they, along with the city, went through comprehensive community outreach, including monthly meetings, that discussed tree removal, including how some trees were old and sick.

"Thousands of flyers were sent out and put in mailboxes and on doors. Flyers were sent home with the public school children to bring home with to their parents that was written in both English and Spanish," Witkiewicz said.

Still, some neighbors say they only found out recently and gathered to grieve after seeing the trees in front of the property were cut down.

On Sunday, a small group gathered with signs. They had a "tree blessing," and then left.

"I cried when I saw all the trees cut down," said resident Janelle Washington.

"I just started this (organization of protest) two weeks ago and I know that there was a long process involved but I do think that there has got to be a way that we can care for nature and for trees along with providing affordable housing for people that we need," said Brenda Helms.

This group of concerned neighbors says they don’t have anything against the developer and their plans to turn the area into a mixed-use development with commercial, residential and affordable housing. They’d like future projects to consider keeping mature trees.

"We’re just responding to the emotions in the neighborhood and we wanted to give people a voice," Helms said.

Even though some of the trees had grown old, the plan is to bring in even more trees than what was cut down.

"We do believe in an urban canopy and as a result we will be planting well over 1,000 new trees on this site," Witkiewicz said.

Developers say they’ve asked for community input from the start and plan on continuing to do so moving forward, especially now that change is visible.