Let’s plan together for a sustainable future

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How vital is your neighborhood to your well-being?

How would you describe your neighborhood to someone looking to relocate?

How would you rate your neighborhood’s social, physical and economic climate?

Economic — Are there businesses located within a few miles of your home? Do you have choices for going out to eat nearby? Are you aware of who employs the greatest number of your neighbors? Is that employer stable, threatened or thriving? Can your teenager find a job nearby?  

Do houses sit on the market for a long time before selling? Are there a range of price points and housing types in your neighborhood? Is there a stable mix of rentals and owner-occupied dwellings? Does it feel like your neighborhood is in a cycle of decay or vibrancy? Economic stability within a neighborhood is key to its sustainability.

Physical — How would you describe the built and natural environment of your neighborhood? Is the character of private homes expressed uniquely or are the buildings indistinguishable from one another? How close is your nearest park or trail? Is it a pleasant place to walk your dog? Can you walk or ride a bike safely within your neighborhood without being in conflict with cars?

What’s the condition of the roadway, the sidewalk — are there healthy trees? Can your neighborhood infrastructure handle heavy rains? Do you have buildings nearby that inspire pride in your community? Are you improving your home or challenging your landlord to make necessary and desirable improvements? Are things falling apart, being maintained or getting better? The space that we create and claim for ourselves and our family plus the public right of way and the larger environment are all elements of our physical neighborhood.

Social – Does your neighborhood help you build connections to other people? Is your support network located in the same geographical area or linked through technology or interests? Do you know the people who live nearby — the business owners, the people you share walls or fences with, the kid learning to ride a bike out front?

Where do you go to connect with other people? Are older adults isolated or engaged within your neighborhood? Strong social connections outside of family and work are important for many of us — it can tap into our talents and bring value to our lives not experienced at home or in the office. Strong, vibrant neighborhoods have abundant opportunities for social interaction.

These questions and digging for the answers can guide planning for a sustainable future for the Pikes Peak Region.

How do we make this remarkable place even better for all of us? Many newer suburban neighborhoods are thriving, but central areas are in decline. What kind of revitalization efforts will restore vibrancy? Are there opportunities for economic, physical and social transformation?

Can we meet the challenges facing our region as a united community, supportive of what can be done? Can we hold our government accountable for caring for our public and civic infrastructure?

What does it take to inspire ourselves and our neighbors to care for this place we call home?

Greater vibrancy is possible in our region by increasing the quantity and price range of housing choices, particularly in our
urban core.

We were founded with vision but not always funded for continued care and maintenance. Our region has gone through phases of spreading and sprawling with developments that don’t always aim for sustainability.

We have huge opportunities for infill development that would leverage past investments in infrastructure. Greater vibrancy is possible in our region by increasing the quantity and price range of housing choices, particularly in our urban core.

Young professionals who are just beginning their careers, and empty-nesters ready to be done with suburban home maintenance, are looking for more urban choices for housing — something we have yet to deliver in a substantial way.

Many people today are ready to ditch long commutes and dependence on their cars. They love the idea of having choices for coffee shops, restaurants, retail shops, trails, parks and cultural activities — all within walking distance of their home and office.

Our region’s greatest opportunity for urban-style apartments and condos close to employment and established park and trail networks is in downtown Colorado Springs. 

I believe it is time for increased development activities to make downtown an even better place to live, work and play — to make it a better destination and a great neighborhood.

Andrea Barker is one of the owners of the architecture and planning firm HB&A.  She currently serves on the boards of Innovations in Aging Collaborative, The Greenway Fund and COPPeR. Her home, office and church are all located downtown.