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DENVER-What is in a name? That is something the city and Forest City are grappling with over the redevelopment of the former Stapleton International Airport.

The $4-billion project, which is one-third the size of the island of Manhattan, is the largest infill project in US history.

The airport is named after former Denver mayor Benjamin Stapleton, who at one time was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Stapleton was first elected mayor in 1923 and in 1925 rejected the Klan. He also was a leader in bringing an airport to Denver.

Although the airport bore his name for decades, most people were unaware of his checkered past.

Now, the Stapleton Development Corp. and Forest City are downplaying the name. They’re doing things such as making the name Stapleton smaller on brochures and signs. One thing they don’t have, though, is another name for the massive development.

But officials hope as time passes, the name Stapleton will slowly fade. For example, officials hope that a new retail center, Quebec Square at Stapleton, will simply be called Quebec Square, as more people move into the massive development.

Ironically, when Mayor Wellington Webb unveiled a new retail center at Stapleton last year, he ignored one lone protestor carrying a sign decrying naming the airport “Stapleton.”

Some historians fear that by ignoring the name Stapleton, it is turning a blind eye to Denver’s history, warts and all. Rather than trying to be politically correct, some say, they should disclose even unflattering parts of Stapleton’s past.

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