Nearly 80 business, community and civic leaders gathered at the Lawrence Street Center on Feb. 26 to learn about CU Denver CityCenter’s new initiative to foster cross-sector, regional conversations on issues related to growth.
The effort, titled Imagine a Great Region™, was showcased at a meeting co-hosted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and CU Denver. The meeting was part of DRCOG’s ongoing Metro Vision Idea Exchange series. DRCOG, along with the Gates Family Foundation, Denver7 News and the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, are partnering with CityCenter on this multi-year initiative.
Sustainably managing urban growth
Imagine a Great Region will bring together community partners from across the Front Range to convene regional dialogues, advance knowledge and disseminate findings about managing urban growth in deliberate, sustainable and equitable ways. CU Denver faculty will work hand-in-hand with students from across campus to conduct research and generate data to fuel these conversations. Thematic research areas will include mobility and transportation, housing equity and affordability, natural resources, social services, and others.
State Demographer Elizabeth Garner of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs kicked off the session by providing an overview of economic and demographic trends throughout the state. Colorado has grown twice as fast as the nation in recent years, said Garner, but that growth will begin to slow after 2025. This, coupled with a decline in birth rates and an aging population, means that regional planners and government leaders will need to think ahead when it comes to impact on jobs, industries and state finances in the future.
“Nothing is a surprise if you look at the demographic trends,” said Garner.
“Growth is a huge issue that concerns our viewers,” added Holly Gauntt, news director for Denver7. The station has launched “Our Colorado,” a series of stories about issues related to growth and the tension between long-time residents and those new to the community.
Gauntt said CU Denver is an important partner in how the station covers this topic because “we don’t know what we don’t know.” The media tends to react to growth and related issues, said Gauntt, but KMGH wants to be “out in front of these trends, and that’s what CU Denver does so well.”
Local expertise in regional planning
“Imagine a Great Region is a big tent project,” said Austin Troy, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning within CU Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning. Troy is helping to lead the Imagine project and is working to bring partners into the effort. He invited those attending to engage and bring their expertise and ideas to the conversation.
Brad Calvert, regional planning and development director for DRCOG, wrapped up the session by saying, “Our region’s growing economy will bring tremendous opportunity, but it will also have profound implications for communities throughout the region. Today’s session surfaced many of these challenges, including the ongoing need for land-use patterns, transportation networks and environmental assets that help our residents and communities succeed today and in the future. DRCOG is thrilled to be a partner in this important effort.”
For more information on CityCenter and Imagine a Great Region, visit www.ucdenver.edu/citycenter.