If you live in Denver, you are probably familiar with the sight, or the smell, of the Purina plant located on the south side of I-70 as you’re on your way to the airport or going out and about. Surrounding this plant is the neighborhood called Swansea. Another non-profit in this neighborhood, The GrowHaus, provides a great summary of the history of this neighborhood.
The Swansea neighborhood is a historic working-class community, first developed in the 1880s. For its first half-century, the area was home to residents of Eastern European origin. Swansea’s location near downtown, the Platte River, and the railroad made it an attractive site for warehouses and factories, and as a result the residences in the neighborhood eventually became surrounded by manufacturing and transportation infrastructure.
In the 1960s, the area began to shift to being predominantly Latino, which it remains today. At around the same time, the construction of I-70 placed a imposing barrier directly through the community, adding to the mounting pollution from sites such as the nearby Asarco smelter and water treatment plant. By the 1990s, the neighborhood had earned the dubious distinction of being the most polluted zip code in the state of Colorado, and was used as a textbook example of environmental injustice.
Swansea today is a neighborhood of contrasts, with both significant opportunities and challenges. The lack of services and geographic isolation has created a tight-knit community, with many neighbors attending the same church and looking after each other’s children. At the same time, air and soil pollution remain pervasive problems despite decades of activism and cleanup efforts, and neglect from the city has lead to a dearth of public amenities, unpaved alleyways and sidewalks badly in need of repair.
Extreme Community Makeover started working in Swansea in 2012. And while we have adopted a number of blocks, we have many more yet to adopt and we would like to invite you to join us to make an impact in the lives of our neighbors living in Swansea.