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Denver's Swallow Hill neighborhood goes dark: Multiple outages frustrate neighbors and businesses

Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-10 21:18:41-04

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DENVER -- Blackout. Denver’s historic Swallow Hill neighborhood is sweating it out this summer with 14 power outages in the last three months.

You might not be familiar with the name Swallow Hill, but you probably know the area. It's near Colfax and Downing and it's home to the Ogden Theater.

Swallow Hill Neighborhood association spokesman Chris Chiari believes the area's energy problem is an issue of aging infrastructure and an old power grid.

"Resources are being committed to areas of the city that are seeing infill, new development, density - and we are overlooking neighborhoods like Cap Hill, neighborhoods like historic Swallow Hill," Chiari said. “Xcel is not meeting our neighborhood needs.”

Lately, some of the shows at the Ogden have gone dark - and so, too, has the surrounding neighborhood.

"We’ve had ten outages since I moved in,” said Gabrielle Anderson, who just moved to the neighborhood this spring. “And there doesn’t have to be a storm. It could be perfect weather like it is right now.”

Chiari lives a block from the Ogden. He says the district is mostly historic, so you can't tear down and build new like what's happening in other areas of Denver.

"We have old, above ground - and in some cases, underserviced lines," Chiari said.

On Friday, Xcel acknowledged the issues and said it is aggressively attempting to replace older equipment in the area.

A spokesman said the power company is trouble-shooting lines in the neighborhood after outages Aug. 4, Aug. 6 and Aug. 7. He said the company still doesn’t know for sure what’s causing the blackouts, but Xcel doesn’t believe it’s a load issue.

The company also said It’s possible that it will add additional infrastructure and a longer-term fix might include adding new underground lines.

“We don’t have air conditioning,” Anderson said. “When the power's out there's no fan. So, it's really, really hot.”

The outages aren’t just impacting homes, but businesses like Alpine Dog Brewing, as well.

“It usually just goes dark in the front of the house,” said brewer Jacob Kemple. “The coolers in the back stay cool, so we can keep pouring beer.”

Kemple said the silver lining is that when shows at the Ogden are delayed because of outages, the crowds often flood into Alpine Dog next door.

“We’re getting this huge flood of people,” Kemple said. “It was like the busiest Monday and Tuesday I've ever worked."

But, he said, they'd prefer reliable service.

“I'd rather it not be dark in here," Kemple said.

"And these are things that Xcel is not delivering on at the moment," Chiari said.

Xcel is planning to meet with the neighborhood next week. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. It’ll be held at Stoney's Bar and Grill Uptown location at Downing and 17th St.

“This should all be built into our rates as far as modernization and grid infrastructure go,” Chiari said. “We prepay for these things and we are clearly not getting that reliable service. We’re frustrated.”