I spent the past few days at a conference in
Cherry Creek and the
The architecture definitely impresses. I am not usually a Daniel Liebeskind fan, but his Denver Art Museum is stunning. The new, edgy buildings of the civic center mix well with the historic architecture of the state capitol and other older government buildings. The Denver Convention Center is also a pretty exciting building (yes, that's a big blue bear pushing against the wall).
Everywhere I looked there was major public art. This is a city that clearly cares about creating a beautiful place for its citizens and visitors. Meanwhile, a host of new condo and apartment buildings are filling in the landscape, bringing more residents downtown.
The Colorado Rockies’ stadium, Coors Field, is right downtown, surrounded by stores and restaurants. It borders the hip Lo Do district and its brewpubs and nightlife. On my first day in town I walked to the ballpark (it took ten minutes from my hotel). Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Families streamed through the downtown streets to make their way to the stadium.
Mayor John Hickenlooper, who gave the keynote address at the conference I was attending, explained that the City did not build new car parking for the stadium. Since it was downtown, people could park in existing garages, or take the train, and walk five to ten minutes to get to the game. On the way they could stop at stores and restaurants.
Well, it works great. Unfortunately the Padres beat the pants off of the
Mayor Hickenlooper (whom, I will note is a Wesleyan alum from the
Perhaps the most stunning example of regional cooperation under Mayor Hickenlooper’s tenure has been the passage of an eight-county referendum to increase the sales tax to pay for mass transit expansion. Denver already has better light-rail than most cities, but after the FasTracks system is completed in 2016, the region will have 122 miles of new light rail and commuter rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit service, and 57 new transit stations. All this in the middle of the wild west!
As I walked for hours around and outside
However, this is changing… fast. Through my hotel window I could see one brand new skyscraper, another starting to rise from a construction site, and a large surface parking lot that was likely next in line for development. I called up fellow Urban Direction blogger, Ariel, and exclaimed of the light rail and other projects: “It looks like they are laying the infrastructure for a city that isn’t here yet.” Ariel answered, “Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?”
Ariel is exactly right, and so is
As is true anywhere, all is not sunny in
In my opinion, the answer seems to be yes. I think that Denver is moving its way over the tipping point. The city is making the right investments to grow its population, encourage economic development, and make itself the competitive hub of the region. While the city still seems rocky (excuse the pun) in some respects, I would bet that in a decade or two Denver will be the envy of many major cities. Other cities that, like Denver, are only starting to boom, but are not investing in infrastructure are going to be kicking themselves. Denver has challenges to overcome, but it is laying a strong foundation for doing so.
So, to Denver, thanks for a sunny day at the ballpark, some great nights at the brewpubs, wonderful walks around your fair city, a fine conference venue, and a glimpse of what regions can achieve when they dream big, cooperate, and are not afraid to take bold action. I wish you the best and hope to come back soon.