Responsible Growth Recap

I had the pleasure of attending the Gazette’s forum on Responsible Growth this week. I appreciated the newspaper’s desire to hold such a forum, it is sorely needed right now in Colorado Springs. I admit that in attending, I thought it would be a lot of sound bites and really not at all interesting. I was wrong, it was a fascinating discussion with great discussions that should continue to evolve. The following are a few points I heard, and subsequent commentary:

  • Traffic, the discussion of traffic always simultaneously amuses and frustrates me. The facts that work against each other here, and throughout the country, are: 1) nobody likes being stuck in traffic; 2) adding new lanes and roads are expensive at the onset and in maintenance; 3) the majority of the Colorado Springs Population complains about higher taxes. With all said, and as Dave Gardner accurately pointed out, we cannot solves traffic congestion – transit and other options help but they are merely options, not a solution to solving traffic congestion. The point of disagreement that I have with Dave, is in the notion of growth as a whole. The city needs to grow, I just believe that it needs to grow in the form of infill and redevelopment. Growth on the periphery of the city is also needed. We need a balance, but outward growth needs to be smart, holistic, and sustainable.
  • Smart Growth, the great irony of the evening. All of the speakers of the evening danced around the idea of smart growth, including the editor of the Gazette, Vince Bzdek. It is the notion of providing the basic needs of people including housing, services, shops, restaurants, parks within a walkable community. A place where the automobile is an option, not a lifestyle requirement. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ve read this before, it is the primary design principle of which I advocate. Our community has no complete areas where this truly occurs – Manitou Springs, Old Colorado City, and Downtown are the most complete. The irony lies in that we do have one community where great strides and attempts are being made – Gold Hill Mesa (south of Old Colorado City). Yes, that Gold Hill Mesa, which is under constant attack by the host of the conversation, the Gazette.

On a side note, I was impressed with the manner that Stephanie Edwards of Gold Hill Mesa sponsored the conversation and restrained from referencing the irony of the situation. Love the Moxy!

  • Affordable Housing, the need is here today, soon it will be dire for Colorado Springs. With the growing population of our city, we will face challenges in accomplishing this necessity. I felt that Tim Seibert, of Nor’Wood, introduced this conversation very eloquently with discussion of how it can be achieved. We need affordable housing, and we need attainable housing. It doesn’t have to be subsidized, it can be in the changing of the zoning code and the allowance of some of the gentle density in the form of accessory dwelling units, or allowing single family homes to have a secondary unit by right. This will bring animosity… not the concept in general, but the fear of it occurring nearby. The NIMBY’s (Not In My Backyard) and CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) People will surface and the politicians and aspiring politicians will have to make the right choice, even if it is against their odds of reelection or desires to seek a higher office. Why? Because that is what they were elected, or appointed to do.

In the end, it was a wonderful discussion and I hope that all parties involved continue the dialogue.

About Urban Landscapes

Urban Landscapes, LLC is the operating name for my new company in Colorado Springs. Over the past 14 years in Colorado Springs, it has been a pleasure to work with so many different individuals and organizations. With each venture in this time, I have gained valuable experience and insight into the types of work that I am most passionate. With this experience, my goal is to take all of the best attributes and focus them toward creating great places.

C:Urban Landscapes LLCBrandingLogoUrban Landscapes - Logo LaI am fortunate to have a wife and three wonderful children who provide a great deal of support and insight into creating great places. I learn from their experiences (along with my own) and take note when an experience is either positive or negative. There is a lot to be learned from kids, as they show their emotions readily and often unknowingly.

My son has already made a significant impact on the business unsolicited. He, and my two daughters, love to sketch and draw. He also loves football and is fascinated with team logos, sketching them daily. He decided that “my team, Urban Landscapes” needed a logo. I was indifferent to the conversation initially, until he started to explain to me his drawing, emphasizing the importance of the circle and how the letters need to work with the arc. Although, I cleaned it up, the end result is the Urban Landscapes ‘Team Logo’ which is far better than anything I had in my mind, and something that is now very special to me, because it came from him.

My operation plan for Urban Landscapes is scaled-based and it really evolves around the tenets of the new urbanism ( and sustainable placemaking. As it has been the case for several years now, it continues to be very important to me to put my community first and create lovable places that can be sustained for generations. I will continue to provide discounted services for the non-profits that need it and make a difference in our community. I love to support passionate individuals who strive to make Colorado Springs a better place (See blog post Helping to Create a Greater Colorado Springs). Today, I sit on the following boards that align with these values:

I find myself involved in projects at the following scales of development: The Infill Site; The Block; The District; and The Town.

The Infill Site | Over the past decade, I’ve always enjoyed the scale of the block and working with architects to best optimize for density and added value. In most instances, density and quality urban design are synonymous. The careful placement and relationships between buildings and units are critical, I love to be involved early on in working with the Architect in building these relationships as I assist an infill project through the jurisdictional entitlement process and when applicable, through a rezoning.

The Block | The scale of the urban block is a fascinating scale to work, which is most often accomplished with a single owner, but not always. This scale is multi-faceted with the calibration of a streetscape to the needs of the building uses, the pedestrian and the automobile. I have enjoyed these projects and hearing from the businesses along the block, as they are really the location experts of what currently works and what does not. I believe that each block in each segment of a town requires careful calibration. A streetscape needs to be more than just bricks, benches, bulbs, banners, and balloons.

The District | Providing a guiding framework of standards and guidelines for the district level is where I initially cut my teeth in the world of the new urbanism. The scale of this district I’ve provided services vary from four to five blocks to the first that I was a part of, which was four-square miles (Destination Midtown, in Omaha with HDR, Inc.). This scale requires great focus and an understanding of the various daily users of the place. Generally speaking, this is a redevelopment-focused scale, however it may also be in the creation of a new place.

The Town | I have enjoyed working several towns in Colorado and continue to do so today. The scale of providing master planning or a new land use code for a town can be as simple or as complex as the policy makers and the consultant make it. While this may be a limiting factor to the work that I do, I am cautious about choosing the right towns to provide services. I have very little interest in providing a plan that will either sit on the shelf or a plan that does not make the positive economic and livability effect for its place. I believe in creating value, which when done right, is rarely a simple task.

The past seven weeks, I found myself in the midst of all scales with the writing of a new form-based code for what would be a new town situated between Ft. Collins and Denver, Hylandtown. I will have much more to say about this wonderful Omni Urbanism experience over the coming months.

Downtown Parking Problems?

While this article from the Gazette is a start, this post is nearly as relevant today as it was 5 years ago. The management of parking will not occur in a progressive manner without discourse, but Cities must be willing to to make change for the betterment of the community and it’s patrons.

Urban Landscapes

“Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

This of course is one of the quotes that is credited to Yogi Berra. The quote is an oxymoron, however it is repeated on a regular basis in a variety of manners. Probably the way that is most often stated in Colorado Springs is as follows:

“Downtown is dying, nobody goes there because you can’t find a place to park.”

Have you made this statement before? It’s okay, I won’t call anybody out, but chances are, this has been stated by you, or at a minimum, to you. This statement is a fallacy unless you are talking about a place that literally does not have any parking (I’m not sure that a place like this exists in the United States). I hear it in Downtown Colorado Springs often. Yes, there are places to park. Downtown has on-street parking on the majority of its…

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