Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Denver in 1982: More Like Portland or Houston?

I came across this fascinating assessment of the Denver Metro Region from the New York Times in 1982. It is astounding how much progress Denver has made in the last quarter century and it's truly something to be thankful for. It is interesting to see that some of our problems from the 1980s persist today. I also think the concept of "self-critical boosterism," mentioned below still has a certain degree of accuracy in describing the Denver Region today and in some ways reflects this tone of this blog.


An Appraisal

April 26, 1982

BYLINE: By PAUL GOLDBERGER, Special to the New York Times

SECTION: Section A; Page 12, Column 1; National Desk

Nothing seems to frighten civic-minded residents of Denver more than the suggestion that the explosive growth of their city in the last few years has made it resemble that other energy boom town, Houston. Indeed, one senses that the people of Denver would rather hear their city by the Rockies compared to Calcutta than to the Texas city that has come to symbolize not only growth but also chaotic sprawl, overtaxed services and choking traffic.

Far from increasing confidence in laissez-faire planning, the immense growth here seems to have decreased it, making this city more nervous and less assured about its future. The mood of Denver right now seems to be skeptical chauvinism, a self-critical boosterism.

Denver is halfway between Houston and Portland, Ore., and both exert a pull on it, Houston representing a tempting but disturbing prosperity, a city of unbridled growth where real estate developers control much of the city's destiny, and Portland looking like a model of restraint, a place characterized by the Northwest's traditions of limiting growth and preserving natural resources.

Change in Three Years

Three years ago downtown Denver consisted of not much more than a few undistinguished medium-size postwar high-rise buildings, an eccentric old tower modeled after the campanile of St. Mark's Church in Venice, and the 90-year-old Brown Palace Hotel.

Now, Denver's downtown is jammed with new office buildings. Where there was eight million square feet of office space as recently as 1979; there is now 20 million square feet, and 15 million square feet is under construction. The old skyline has virtually disappeared amid a plethora of new skyscrapers; perhaps even more significant, the landscape around the city has filled with new residential and commercial construction.

But downtown Denver remains a disappointing collection of mediocre skyscrapers, different from the Denver of three years ago only in quantity, not in quality. There is little to pull the place together. And, with the exception of two recent buildings with silvery metal skins similar to the sheathing of Citicorp Center in New York, there are no buildings that seem designed specifically for Denver. Most of downtown Denver could be anywhere, even Houston.

There are some encouraging signs, however. One of them is the discontent that so many of this city's business people, architects and civic leaders feel about the direction that downtown development has taken. Denver is still small enough to make it possible for decisions to be made by a single group of powerful people, and that is more or less the intention of the Denver Partnership, an activist group fighting for better urban design.

Created 16th Street Mall

The Denver Partnership was a major force behind the creation of the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian mall designed by I.M. Pei & Partners that is nearing completion on one of the city's main downtown streets. The mall will be managed by the group under contract to the city. The organization has also acted as an advocate for more sophisticated downtown zoning laws, which have recently been adopted.

What neither this group nor Historic Denver Inc., the city's active preservationist organization, has thus far been able to do is get a substantial amount of housing built downtown. This is beginning to change under the guidance of Liebman Ellis Melting, a New York and Denver-based architectural firm, but it remains an area in which Denver lags badly. While the city is increasingly attracting young professionals who prefer city life, there is still virtually no housing available in the center.

Nudging Up the Mountains

In some ways, however, it is already too late for Denver to avoid all the problems of Houston. While sprawl is not so pervasive here, its effects are more dramatic, for in Denver there is an extraordinary landscape to be destroyed. Miles of small suburban houses cover nothing but flat land in Houston; in Denver, they nudge their way up mountainsides, fighting the beauty of the Rockies that is the city's real heritage.

Denver's current phase of growth can be said to have begun with the completion of the headquarters of Johns-Manville in 1978, a sleek metal building on a former ranch some miles out of town. When the company moved from New York to Denver, it brought 3,000 employees with it. Though these people work in an environment with views of a pristine mountain landscape, the views out of their office windows are increasingly the only untouched ones, for the coming of so many new households led to the development of miles of mountainside land with tract housing.

The problems here are truly regional ones, and population statistics show it. The population of the city of Denver remained relatively constant at 500,000 from the 1970 to the 1980 census, while that of the surrounding counties grew 31 percent, from 1.24 million to 1.62 million.

Much of the growth comes from an influx of young professionals for whom Denver, like Houston or Washington, D.C., has become a focus of migration. But virtually the only housing constructed in recent years downtown has been some flashy condominium towers, and there are few services for full-time living downtown.

The problems of downtown Denver and the region, then, are closely connected, for as Denver expands by covering up its mountains, it also weakens the downtown it is trying to promote. Every house built at the foot of the Rockies does double damage: It takes away a part of a virgin landscape, and it saps energy from the downtown it could have strengthened.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

United Health Foundation Ranking of the Healthiest States: Colorado Ranked 8th

According to an annual ranking of the most and least healthy states by the United Health Foundation, as reported by Forbes, Colorado was ranked the 8th most healthy state. Mississippi was ranked the least healthy state.

See below for a summary excerpt on Colorado from the United Health Foundation website :

"Ranking: Colorado is 8th this year; it was 14th in 2008.

Strengths: Strengths include a low prevalence of obesity at 19.1 percent of the population, low levels of air pollution at 7.7 micrograms of fine particulate per cubic meter, few poor mental and physical health days per month at 3.0 days and 3.2 days in the previous 30 days, respectively, low rates of deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease at 166.1 deaths and 235.1 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively, and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations with 53.7 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.

Challenges: Challenges include a high prevalence of binge drinking at 16.6 percent of the population, a high rate of uninsured population at 16.1 percent and high geographic disparity within the state at 15.8 percent.

Significant Changes: In the last year, public health funding increased from $74 to $88 per person. In the last year, the rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease declined from 247.0 to 235.1 deaths per 100,000 population. In the past five years, immunization coverage increased from 67.5 percent to 80.7 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving complete immunizations. In the past ten years, the prevalence of smoking decreased from 22.8 percent to 17.6 percent of the population.

Health Disparities: In Colorado, smoking is more prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks at 25.2 percent than non-Hispanic whites at 16.5 percent. Mortality rates vary by race and ethnicity in Colorado, with 835.3 deaths per 100,000 population among blacks compared to whites, who experience 748.5 deaths per 100,000 population."

The above excerpt was from

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Planning for ConocoPhillips Campus Moves Forward

The Daily Camera had a lengthy article by Alicia Wallace about ConocoPhillips recent submission of its development proposal to the City of Louisville for its training and research campus at the former Storage Technology campus off U.S. 36. Plans are moving forward to build out 1.6 million square feet of space by 2013.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Colorado Fourth Happiest U.S. State

According to a study based on data from the Gallup Organization's Well-Being Index, Colorado is the fourth happiest state in the U.S.