Architects seek business help for city redesign

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Colorado Springs architects are leading an effort to create an action plan to redefine the character of the city.

The American Institute of Architects Colorado South chapter is seeking volunteers to participate in a three-day workshop Sept. 26-28 with a team of renowned architectural and community-building advisors to discuss sustainable design in Colorado Springs.

The goal of the three-day intensive workshop is to “engage citizens, elected officials, agencies and business leaders to define a Pikes Peak Region sustainable built environment plan that promotes ‘complete’ and livable communities, realizes greater efficiencies in resources and infrastructure, promotes economic opportunity, raises the quality of life for all citizens, and builds an identity around our unique and magnificent natural environment.”

The AIA Colorado South chapter received a $15,000 grant and guidance from a national team of experts to lead community discussions about how to actionably create a stronger and more vibrant sense of community.

The architects are reaching out to the business and development communities as well as the community at large to participate in the dialogue.

“We’ve talked about building more sustainable buildings for a long time,” said Lou Galleta, an architect with HL Architecture. “But the bigger picture is about the collection of buildings.”

Lee Quill, a Washington, D.C. architect with extensive experience in community master planning, university planning, urban design, residential and mixed-use infill, adaptive reuse of historic buildings and institutional, university and commercial corporate architecture, will lead the national advisory team.

Other experts on the team include land use sustainability expert Ron Thomas from Northeastern Illinois, retrofitting of suburban and urban design expert June Williamson from New York City, transportation expert Kristine Williams from Michigan and real estate analyst Richard Ward.

Galletta and Bill Fisher, who owns Collaborative Design Group, said the idea of the workshop is to get community input about what a sustainable community would look like and how we could achieve sustainability, congeal that input and then get a cohesive action report back from the national team within two to three months that can be used to inform future community planning efforts at the government level.

“In my mind, a sustainable community is a more intense urban environment,” Galletta said.

Fisher said he sees sustainable environments as pedestrian friendly mixed-use communities where neighborhoods provide everything residents need without making them “haul out to Powers Boulevard to get it.”

In previous brainstorming sessions, some of the proposed efforts that would lead to a more sustainable Colorado Springs included bringing housing into the downtown area so it could become an urban core, a place where people can work, live and play, Galletta said.

Other ideas have included the Great Streets vision for revitalizing the South Academy corridor with new residential and commercial mixed-use development along with public transportation options. Other visions have focused on downtown connectivity with the rest of the community and perhaps developing a trolley system linking the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with the downtown core and beyond.

Galletta said the Operation 6035 community action plan discusses the importance of retaining and attracting young professionals to the city.

“They leave and go to places like Chicago and New York not just for economic opportunity,” Galletta said, “but for vibrancy of community.”

He said Colorado Springs has been slow to develop itself in ways that build that vibrancy.

“I think we’re behind the curve and it impacts our brand,” he said. “But we do have a lot to build from here. We have a very beautiful environment and a culture of recreation and athleticism that ties together very well with a livable community.”

Galletta and Fisher said the sustainable design assessment team provides the architects an opportunity contribute to what has been an ongoing discussion in the community and, while the team’s findings won’t be the final word on how to achieve sustainable built environments in Colorado Springs, it should add some depth to the conversation.

“We want to go beyond visioning and dreaming and come out with an action plan,” Galletta said.

Visit www.ppsdat.org for information about participating.