Hey Hey, Howdy and Hello! This is Victoria Stone coming to you “live” on paper from the fabulous and historic Hillside neighborhood. I have been a Colorado Springs resident since 1996 and my family and I moved into the Hillside neighborhood in 2005. It has been amazing to see all the changes and challenges in this community over the past 16 years!
Hillside is an eclectic mix of income-based, affordable housing, and homes that are selling for more than half a million dollars.
About two years ago, I saw a Sotheby’s listing sign on Costilla Street and Wasatch Avenue, near the semi-scary railroad underpass and I was like “WHAAAAAA!?!?!?!?! Where do I live? Can I live here, do I need to move?” I thought Hillside was the hood. … Or, at least, that’s what people had been telling me for most of the time that I’ve lived here. I have continually stated that Colorado Springs doesn’t have any hoods, ghettos or projects, as my whole family is from New Orleans, where the Calio Projects were REAL! The Ninth Ward was a place that my grandma would NEVER let me go swimming with my friends. She feared that I wouldn’t return home to her intact, alive, but possibly in some other strange condition that she would later have to explain to my father.
I remember the novelty I felt about moving into Hillside; I was young and dumb! (Still young … at heart.) I thought to myself, “This is so cool, I can go to all the bars downtown and if I ever can’t drive home, I could just do a not-too-long walk of shame, safely back to my house.”
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that the Hillside neighborhood is downtown-adjacent, and that’s how I describe it. I also realize that being close to downtown isn’t just a great way to be able to safely bar- and club-hop, but it is a location prime for gentrification.
Hillside is quite an interesting, multifaceted community, and it seems like people hold many differing opinions about it. Although some call it the hood, my history and knowledge of MY community tell me that, in 1995, we were listed as one of America’s Best Neighborhoods to live in. So how could we be the hood? This nation is BIG, and if little ole Hillside came together and got us on the national radar, there must be something magical about this place.
We have a rich history of being a historically Black neighborhood, producing and housing many of the city’s most prominent Black figures, and continuing to cultivate and develop dynamic leaders who enrich all of Colorado Springs.
There is controversy about whether Hillside is really Southeast, because our ZIP code is 80903 and not 80916. I am envious of the ever-growing revitalization of the Southeast community’s culture. (I guess I live in the New South, as a downtown-adjacent resident, but refuse to call it NuSo.) “SE Proper” is filled with all the activist organizations and organizations striving to create more community, and I am longing for a time when I can experience “Hillside Pride” instead of the conversations I hear about my community.
The Hillside is filled with first-time homeowners, flippers and people excited about the skyrocketing property values. It’s also home to residents who have lived their whole lives in this community, paid off their homes and live off Social Security or retirement income, and are now faced with losing their homes because the skyrocketing property values come with skyrocketing property taxes.
The Hillside also has seen an influx of nonprofits and businesses that don’t quite have a cohesive way of getting a unified message out to the community, which in some ways I feel divides the community. When there are so many “things” to get connected to, how do you know which one to connect with? It’s interesting to see and experience this amazing community somewhere between gentrification, urban renewal and survival.
At this time, I am uncertain what the next 25 years will bring us, but what I do know is that I love Hillside. I have Hillside Pride, and I plan to stay in the community I love until my house is paid off. I look forward to that day when I can burn my mortgage and live off Social Security/retirement. I hope I’ll be able to afford my property taxes so that I can stay in the community where I’ve grown deep roots.