At the University of Colorado Denver, “CU in the City” expresses a commitment to serve the community. The commitment goes back decades, as seen in the work of the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) and the Colorado Center for Community Development (CCCD).
CAP and CCCD, which is part of CAP, celebrated 50 years of community involvement at a reception on April 6. Since 1967, CAP’s students, faculty and staff have been working in Denver and around Colorado to make a difference. CCCD helps cities and towns engage the community in the planning process as they develop projects such as new parks, redesign civic areas and main streets, and write master plans.
“The work of CAP and the Colorado Center for Community Development has set the model for CU Denver,” Chancellor Dorothy Horrell said to a crowd of about 120 guests, including members of the Board of Regents.
“We’re extraordinarily proud of what they do to provide a hands-on and meaningful education, while at the same time bringing expertise to communities around the metropolitan area and to every corner of the state of Colorado,” she said.
‘The most remarkable partnership’
The evening reception on the second floor of the CU Building celebrated all facets of CAP. Exhibits showed the work of students, faculty members and research centers such as the CCCD. The projects ranged from cabins for nonprofits such as the Colorado Outward Bound School and award-winning sustainable homes to transit and affordable-housing studies.
“We’re very proud to show off our work,” CAP Dean Mark Gelernter said. “This is really a cross-section of what the college does.”
Given its golden anniversary, CCCD took center stage. The center is a clinical teaching practice, which means it gives CAP students real-world experience on projects. Students propose ideas, run community workshops and help create building designs and community plans. Communities benefit because they receive services and expertise their local governments might not be able to offer.
Gelernter called it “the most remarkable partnership between CU and the citizens of Colorado.”
“For half a century, the university has brought its skills and knowledge to the service of Colorado communities, and our exhibit shows the range of this work over these many years,” he said. “It’s a wonderful testimony that people working hard and doing their best all adds up. We can see 50 years of people incrementally making great things happen.”
A long evolution
Over the decades, CCCD has had several names, and its scope has changed. Originally known as the CU Extension Division’s Bureau of Community Service, it focused on helping Denver residents have a greater voice in the redevelopment of their neighborhoods and city.
Recent CCCD projects
See a map of recent Colorado Center for Community Development projects
Now, CCCD’s University Technical Assistance program works with cities and towns across the state as part of a program supported by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. In 2016, the UTA completed 38 projects. The CCCD estimates it has completed more than 2,000 projects since the late 1970s, and it has worked in nearly every county in Colorado.
CCCD hosted a luncheon earlier in the day to talk about its history. Former directors told stories of their experience and the impact the center has had. A documentary produced by CAP and CAM students highlighted its work.
As the CCCD has evolved, so has CU Denver. At the evening reception, Horrell noted that the university itself is 44 years old. The university’s relationship with CCCD goes back to the days of the University of Colorado Denver Center, which in 1967 was an extension campus in the CU system.
“What we are recognizing started even before CU Denver was a stand-alone campus in our system,” Horrell said. She said it showed the university’s long legacy of innovative partnerships with government, nonprofits and businesses.
Programs like the CCCD “allow us to use the expertise that we have, our fresh thinking and new ideas, to help solve some of the most challenging issues that our communities and our society are facing,” Horrell said.
Gelernter agrees. He is retiring this summer, and he said one of his last tasks as dean will be completing a history of CAP. Its work in the community through programs such as CCCD will be featured prominently.
“It’s a pretty amazing story of how this all started before there was even a campus here, and how this gradually evolved into a most remarkable organization,” he said.