At the turn of the 20th century, Downtown Denver’s public realm was filled with pedestrians, bicyclists, commerce, transit, play and active life. In fact, cycling was so popular that the Denver Wheelmen boasted 25,000 members. “In less than a century, we have gone from streets with horseless carriages to a highly studied system of roads that often prioritizes cars,” says Chris Parezo, Principal of Denver urban design and landscape architecture firm Civitas. “Somewhere we’ve moved away from the concept of the public realm being for the people.” But a new Denver project is providing an opportunity to shift the paradigm.
The Downtown Denver Partnership has selected Civitas to lead a design effort for a bold vision for the 5280 Loop. The Partnership and project team are asking the community to help reimagine 5+ miles of center city streets into a uniquely Denver amenity that prioritizes people, culture, nature, and health. Steeped in neighborhood culture, the 5280 Loop will promote active modes of transportation and connect many vibrant and diverse neighborhoods and civic destinations through the great urban outdoors. A conceptual design plan will be completed by September 2018.
“Cities around the world are rethinking the traditional definition of a ‘street’ to go beyond just moving vehicles,” says John Desmond, the Partnership’s Executive Vice President for Urban Environment. “The 5280 Loop will be Denver’s answer on how to transform a network of our streets into iconic ‘shared spaces’ that will continue to move people and connect neighborhoods. At the same time, they’ll promote community and celebrate the urban experience in an authentically Denver way.”
“I am excited for Civitas’ participation, because they are innovisionary,” explains Mark Bernstein, Downtown Planner for Denver Parks, City and County of Denver. “They have the ability to explore without boundaries, to push the envelope, be thoughtful and help facilitate a conversation and the overall process. Civitas is up for the challenge to develop a bold vision blending place and mobility to enrich livability in a maturing downtown.”
Civitas’ outcome-based approach also attracted nationally known public health expert and HealthxDesign founder Rupal Sanghvi to join their team. “Given the scale of what’s happening economically in Denver and the openness of the city to exploring how to achieve healthier outcomes, the 5280 Loop has the potential for impacting a population of some magnitude,” says Sanghvi, who was intrigued by the project’s prospects of serving as a model for “thinking more upstream” in promoting health through the physical shape of how we live, work and play.
Founded in 1984 with the core purpose of “creating healthier cities,” Denver-based Civitas, Inc., is an idea-based practice of urban designers, architects and landscape architects engaged in strategic planning for urban change and project design for built works. A consultancy and a design studio, Civitas advises on a wide range of strategies for re-imagining urban life and places, working in U.S. cities coast to coast and around the world. For additional information visit civitasinc.com.