The Italian word "Montbello" means literally "beautiful mountain." Spectacular views of Mount Evans, Long's Peak, and the Continental Divide inspired developers to name Denver's new neighborhood area after the picturesque mountain region in the Italian Alps with the same name.
Montbello is in Denver County. Living there offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes, there are a lot of parks, Many families live in Montbello and residents tend to be liberal. And after decades of disregard, real estate prices -- coupled with other bonuses: spectacular mountain views; proximity to downtown Denver -- have spurred an unprecedented interest in Denver's largest neighborhood, the quadrilateral district wedged between I-70 and Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and Peoria Street and Chambers Road.
Some things haven't changed much since the community was formed in 1966, when Denver City Council annexed nearly 3,000 acres of vacant prairie grassland and farmland from Adams County.
"Montbello was established to serve as an affordable community where middle-class and military families could own their own house," explains Donna Garnett, grant manager for the three-year-old Montbello Organizing Committee and editor of MUSE, Montbello's neighborhood newspaper. Longtime resident Chris Martinez, a senior advisor for Mayor Michael Hancock and chair of the Montbello Organizing Committee, moved to Montbello 40 years ago, when he was 22. "I came for affordability," he says. "Quality homes, big yards. You get a lot for your money," he adds.
Montbello was the first major annexation of private land in Denver's far northeast area, and the city hatched a master land use plan that divided the land, allocating 1,770 acres for new home construction. When the inaugural 100 single-family homes went up in 1967, newcomers could buy a four-bedroom tri-level with a two-car garage for $21,950.
A couple of years later, Montbello looked like its own mini-city, with a fire station, a bank, a park, a church, and 1,200 occupied homes. About 50 manufacturers and distributors employed over 5,000 in their Montbello-based facilities. "At the close of the 1960s, the City declared Montbello 'a tremendous success,'" Garnett wrote.
By 1970, Montbello had nearly 5,000 residents; over 80 percent of that population was married and under the age of 34. "When I first moved to Montbello we were a growing community, and a suburban community of hope," Martinez says.
Today's population of roughly 31,599 (according to a 2014 indicator) is racially diverse, with 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data showing 62 percent of residents are Latino, 24 percent African American, 11 percent Caucasian, and 2 percent Asian. The community is still young: Over half of residents are under the age of 34, and there are an estimated 6,668 families.
A quarter of those families live in poverty, which is high compared to metro Denver's overall poverty rate of 12.1 percent in 2014, according to CBS Denver. When Denver Community Planning and Development evaluated Montbello in anticipation for its accelerated citywide neighborhood planning initiative, analysts found that changes in median income over a 10-year period were low when compared to other neighborhoods in Denver.