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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock poses for a photo with Dejon Lewis, a fourth-grade student at McGlone Academy, who said he benefits from after-school programming. The two spoke at a Feb. 20 press conference, during which the mayor announced new funding to reduce youth violence in Denver.

The City and County of Denver wants to establish a youth empowerment center in the Valverde neighborhood to address youth violence, the city announced Wednesday.

The proposal passed the City Council Finance and Governance Committee unanimously Tuesday. It will now be considered by the full City Council.

“We need a multi-faceted, community-focused approach to break the cycle of youth violence,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “We want young people to reach for resources, not weapons. We want them to find fulfillment, not become trapped in the criminal justice system.”

Hancock pointed to an increase in youth violence as the COVID-19 pandemic exasperates economic uncertainty and youth challenges.

The proposal includes the acquisition of 1240 W. Bayaud Ave. using $3 million of Community Development Block Grant funding. The building is currently owned by the non-profit organization Police Activities League.

If approved by the City Council, the building will be used for city-wide youth services, including training, recreational and mental health services, the announcement said.

The building, built in 2010, sits on over half an acre of land. It has a rock-climbing wall, a basketball court and is located near the Alameda Light Rail Station and RTD bus routes.

“The community has been asking for a dedicated youth center for decades,” said Jolon Clark, Denver city councilman.

“The Valverde neighborhood, which I represent, first called for a youth center in its 1991 neighborhood plan. It has never been more needed than right now, and this youth center will provide robust services and a safe space for youth and their families for decades to come.”

Denver’s Youth Violence Prevention Action Table (YVPAT) has been implementing plans to address youth violence prevention during COVID-19.

YVPAT, convened by Hancock in 2019, aims to identify actionable items to support youth violence prevention with a conglomerate of youth, community and city leaders.

City Attorney Kristin Bronson is leading the YVPAT.

“Our long-term approach is to deploy multiple strategies across multiple neighborhoods with special attention to our historically under-resourced neighborhoods that have been most impacted by youth violence,” Bronson said. “Our proposal to acquire this building comes after other cities launched dedicated youth centers … and found them to be enormously successful.”

Bronson said YVPAT participants have repeatedly asked for a youth empowerment center to provide a safe place for Denver’s youth.

“This center is the first of its kind of Denver, and we are excited to work with the community on the vision for its future, but we recognize that it is also just a first step,” Bronson said.

The YVPAT will issue its final report and long-term youth violence prevention strategy by the end of 2020.

Last week, YVPAT earned Hancock the national City Award from Cities United, recognizing cities that work to confront youth violence.

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