Changing leadership for changing Colorado Springs

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As a native of Colorado Springs (a fact whose importance gets overblown continuously) I have watched Colorado Springs grow like crazy, and remember my grandfather who ran a tourist court in Ivywild during the 1930s and who became one of Colorado’s foremost masonry contractors (including the masonry for First Presbyterian downtown and the Corpus Christi church by Penrose hospital) talk about how bright the future was for Colorado Springs, before even Circle Drive was a twinkle in his eye.
If we look back to look forward, just think of where this beautiful place will be in 10 and 20 years, when our kids will be coming home for the holidays from their jobs in Bejing and Bangalore, Beirut and Barcelona. Like these cities, we will see the benefits and challenges of added jobs, more parks and a better way of life than we enjoy today (even for us “young seniors”) as Colorado Springs decides who it wants to be when it grows up.
The real issue is how we “show up” as leaders to make sure that a beautiful future is indeed in the cards for our metro area.
We’ve got lots of work to do, and with global challenges including climate change and increased competition, like that which has caused the demise of the Intel plant here recently, we need to focus on how we keep Colorado Springs beautiful with forthright action that honors the splendor of the Pikes Peak massif and the Front Range that is our internationally unique asset.
If we chose to provide a beautiful city that indeed respects our surroundings, we will accomplish more for us than 10 economic development corporations (as I’m sure Mike Kazmierski and his staff will agree) can during the next 50 years to keep us a vital city.
To squander this beautiful setting will send a clear message to those who want to live and work here that we are spoiled brats, spending too much time playing in the mountains and not enough time and effort keeping our city a beautiful outstretched visual complement to our beautiful backdrop.
I submit however, that the Colorado Springs design market, particularly in our three strategic planning areas (downtown, the UCCS Research Park/shopping center and airport development areas) needs bolstering to ensure that we don’t spoil our nest.
With the recent passage of the Downtown Development Authority comes an unprecedented opportunity to provide leadership toward making sure that we turn the existing prescriptive and sometimes difficult and unpredictable design review and approval process into a process that encourages excellence in architectural design and the provision of needed public infrastructure such as parking and public plazas.
If we organize a process that rewards good design that is predictable, proactive and financially supportive for developers, the market attractiveness of downtown will improve.
As a committed Colorado Springs leader, I choose to “show up” to talk the talk and walk the walk as this year’s president of the Colorado South Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and with last year’s president, Roger Sauerhagen, and architects Marv Maples, Stuart Coppedge and next year’s president, Doug Abernethy, we have led an effort to work closely with the Downtown Partnership and City Planning Department to start this ball rolling downtown.
We held a design charrette at Colorado College as part of the Imagine Downtown process that calls for improving the climate for good design, as well as for public projects like “10,000 Trees Downtown: Palmer’s Vision Version 2.0,” and for entryways to downtown. We are now working with the newly formed DDA board (including CSNA architect Roger Sauerhagen) to put a process in place for the use of DDA funds, which might amount to the generation of $90 million in downtown improvements, some of which need to be used for economic incentives that will encourage excellence in architecture for our growing metro area.
Knowing that we are handing off an extremely complex world to our emerging leaders, I have also organized a young AIA board, so that they can learn how to skillfully take the handoff as we transfer our leadership responsibilities.
They are being encouraged to participate in programs like Leadership Pikes Peak, the CSLI program at the Center for Creative Leadership and as active leaders of the Partnership for Community Design, started by two notable Colorado Springs leaders 20 years ago, Mary Lou Makepeace and Nolan Schriner.
We also are trying to build a design constituency to support us as we venture to the Utilities Board, Planning Commission and City Council in our quest, with the participatory bent of the charrette and the presence of our AIA Colorado South Chapter’s Web site that features the details about how everyone can help let our elected and appointed leaders know that excellence in architecture is vital to Colorado Springs’ future.
Indeed our chapter is a national leader in developing Colorado Springs “Best of Google’s 3D Warehouse” presence on Google Earth, which is a focus of many Web 2.0 efforts to bring the functionality of the Web in ways that aren’t even a twinkle in our collective eyes yet.
Speaking of walking the walk and showing up, I am shortly off on an adventure that will highlight the promise of my future as an architect and constantly improving leader.
Instead of heading out to Mrs. Grody’s ranch for horseback riding lessons just beyond Circle Drive like I did as a kid, I’m heading off to India and Africa for March and April to ride camels, motorcycles, planes and who knows what else to discover with my sons Isaac and Thatcher where our next Circle Drive might be in the potential of these boundless countries.
Part of my journey, with the help of former U.S. ambassador to India Dick Celeste, is in cooperation with the Urban Land Institute who is expanding its capabilities internationally to see if there is the potential for ULI’s service advisory panel program in India to work with the challenges that their growing cities face.
I’ve participated in about seven of these panels from Anchorage to Daytona Beach where I’ve volunteered a week of my time per panel to help communities with perplexing or intractable problems.
Such a panel created the climate for the development of Briargate several years ago, now a suburb that we are all proud of. As the world adds 1.5 million people to cities a week, we need all the help we can get.
So I’ve got my round trip ticket and the support of a great family, wonderful and supportive partner Mark Tremmel and staff to go see what’s cooking, including counting sand particles on my thumb as I lay on the beautiful beaches of Mozambique (or perhaps not counting anything).
I’ll keep you posted.
Morey Bean is a partner at Colorado Architecture Partnership LLP.