Hartley mapping business success in Colorado Springs

Thu, Sep 15, 2011

One on One

Thirty four-year-old Chad Hartley chose to establish his planning firm in Colorado Springs because he believes the city offers a number of prime business opportunities.

Firmly rooted, he’s now looking toward the city’s future with creativity and optimism.

He took some time recently to talk to the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

When did you start your company, and why did you pick Colorado Springs for its location?

I started Land Elements in the summer of 2006 after working as a planner in both the private and public sectors. I had recently finished graduate school in Denver and always wanted to start my own firm before the age of 30. Recently married with no kids, it seemed like the perfect time to take the plunge. I chose to start my business here because I had already built relationships locally in the planning field, had experience in military master planning thanks to a great mentor (Paul Clowser of PRC Planning), and appreciated the strong military presence.

What’s the best thing about doing business in Colorado Springs? What’s most challenging?

One of the best things about doing business in Colorado Springs is its size. It’s large enough to support a critical mass of planning work for small firms such as Land Elements, but still small enough to foster professional relationships and enjoy a fantastic quality of life. Also, being centrally located with a convenient airport provides an advantage of being no more than one flight connection away from almost anywhere in the world.

One of the most challenging aspects is the lack of affordable land use data. A lot of my land analysis projects require the use of public data from County Assessors, City Planning Departments, and others. Colorado Springs is behind the rest of the country on providing this raw data to consultants at a reasonable cost.

What have been the biggest changes to the planning industry in the last five years? What lies ahead?

I think the biggest change to the planning industry has been the increased demand for green building and sustainable design projects. We’ve already seen this at the federal level, where every new building on a military installation must achieve LEED Silver status at a minimum.

Another change has been the prolonged economic slump and its effect on land developers and local governments. The trend appears to be developers and local governments are postponing projects until the economy picks up, which has resulted in increased competition and larger firms competing for smaller projects.

What lies ahead is a demand for sustainable locations — not just buildings. People will have a greater awareness of a site’s proximity to existing utilities, transit, employment, and renewable energy resources.

Who are some of your local and international clients?

One of my most recognizable local clients is The Cliff House at Pikes Peak. Land Elements was hired to manage all development approvals for The Cliff House West — a redevelopment project that includes a new luxury hotel built to LEED standards, two levels of underground parking, a rooftop garden, and a new public park adjacent to the site. I manage all required land use applications through the City approval process and have presented at over 10 public hearings in Manitou Springs.

Another local project I’ve worked on was a Density Analysis for the Yorkshire Square Apartments located near Academy and Woodmen. The project analyzed how zoning regulations and physical site constraints influenced the ability to develop additional townhome units on their property.

Land Elements was also involved in a new development plan and land use approvals for the Agilent Technologies corporate campus on Garden of the Gods Road, and completed a similar project for the Colony Hills Apartments near the airport.

Internationally, I’ve worked on several master planning projects on U.S. Military Installations in countries such as Japan, Korea, Honduras, Belgium, and Germany. As a consultant, I assist other master planning firms — several of which are located locally, with projects such as General Plans, Area Development Plans, and Space Utilizations Studies.

What changes would you like to see in Colorado Springs?

I’d like to see Colorado Springs have a strong growth management strategy. New development can be very positive for a community if managed appropriately. With the possible changes to the Banning-Lewis development and the current sluggish economy, now is the perfect time to implement policies that shape the future growth of the city for the better.

I’d also like to see Colorado Springs become a leader in expanding our regional transportation system for the Front Range. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to walk to a world class train station downtown and hop on a high-speed train headed for Denver? Or better yet, people in Denver hop on a train and come to Colorado Springs for the day to visit a new Olympic Hall of Fame and Space Museum in our beautiful downtown?

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