The Space Between

denverThe great thing about the Downtown Denver Partnership is that it brings together a cross-section of people who, whether they admit it or not, are experts in their field. Since diversity drives innovation, it makes for a great platform to explore issues that impact us all. To that end, the Partnership selects people every year to participate in a Leadership program that culminates in a working document to provide direction for the future. Last year, they took on the idea of making downtown Denver more pedestrian-friendly. (Full disclosure: I drove the four blocks to the meeting…) This year, they were tasked with proposing methods to activate downtown’s open spaces.  I thought I’d share a few of their thoughts and encourage you to check out the full document.

Like most major urban cores, the zoning map for downtown Denver has a couple specs of green “open space” in a sea of red development. That means we need to capitalize on what little we have to “attract people, build community, define and frame the relationships between buildings, walkways and adjacent spaces, and contribute to the impression of a memorable place.”

At first glance, the idea of downtown open space appears to be an oxymoron. But not if you consider the streetscapes, plazas, parks and spaces between the buildings. The Leadership group identified two Denver spaces for each of those categories and used them to illustrate the potential for activation:

  • Signature Spaces: Union Station and Civic Center Park
  • Squares & Plazas: Republic Plaza and a parking lot at 15th and California
  • Neighborhood Parks: Sculpture Park and Benedict Fountain Park
  • Street & Streetscapes: Blake Street and Wynkoop Street

The workbook analyzes each area and offers an entire toolbox of resources like, “How to Build a Public/Private Partnership” and calls out the network of funding and financing structures available to realize the potential of these spaces.  The 2009 Leadership class is committed to the implementation of their project and hopes to oversee the future of downtown open space development.  But it takes the cooperation and dedication of many individuals and corporations to encourage revitalization.

One of my favorite parts of the presentation came when an audience member raised the question:

“What happens now?” The answer was basically, “It’s up to you.”

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