When we set out to start Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, it was a response to the negative conversation that has put a dark cloud over our community. There seems to be this opinion that nothing can get done for the benefit of our community unless it is being sparked by government or has major funding.
If this were to be considered fact, we as a community are in trouble.
Fortunately, this is not true. We set out to change this conversation and remind our community that we are blessed with a world-class natural setting. The complementary built environment is up to us.
It was enlightening for us to discover how many people really cared about our city when we set out to implement our first intervention in 2012, Better Block Pikes Peak. Within a month, our initial email group of fewer than 10 people multiplied to over 100 individuals and companies.
We set out to show our community the opportunities that are available with our wide right-of-ways, beautiful views and celebration of our green spaces. Both are considered to be assets when transformed for efficiency, maintenance reduction and people (as opposed to people in their cars).
For those unfamiliar with Better Block Pikes Peak, it was a 24-hour “Experiment in Placemaking” that transformed an existing automobile-dominated street to a more balanced street where pedestrians, businesses, and automobiles are accommodated. We calculated multiple statistics in the process that showed the removal of parking spaces and two lanes of traffic not only increased beneficial pedestrian activity, but also reduced vehicular velocity, while increasing vehicular volume.
The 24-hour changes were accomplished without affecting traffic light cycles, changing the physical infrastructure or spending more than $8,000 (which bought supplies that we still possess today and intend to utilize for future interventions).
On the heels of Better Block Pikes Peak, our group took on a demonstration in placemaking with the implementation of Curbside Cuisine. While this project was centered and focused on food, the goals of our organization were to create a place where people gathered because of the food and demonstrate how otherwise-dilapidated properties could become centers of pedestrian activity.
Curbside Cuisine, partnering with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and the YMCA, thrived in our demonstration period of six months and is still functioning at high levels today as a “place that was previously placeless.” We are proud of Curbside Cuisine and its ability to become a functioning nonprofit and are excited to see it grow in the future.
This past summer, our group tested walkability signage in downtown Colorado Springs. The goal was to provide information that would be desirable for downtown patrons. We provided witty temporary signage describing an attribute of a place with a color-coordinated sign and providing an estimated walking time to the destination. The day following the sign implementation, a consultant of Downtown Partnership suggested the same type of signs to the Downtown Creative District Steering Council.
Through low-cost, low-commitment experimentation, we are providing a means to physically testing potential capital improvements to our city’s infrastructure.
Too often, we have a negative attitude of why changes would not work in our community. With CSUI, the community has the ability to test, prove or disprove theories that otherwise may be quickly dismissed. We believe that this will allow our city to move at a faster pace to becoming world-class without getting caught in the political weeds.
We are currently working on implementing protected bike lanes, a parklet at Epicentral Coworking, pocket parks and working with UCCS students to test Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) between downtown Colorado Springs and UCCS. We have the desire to have interventions throughout the Pikes Peak region.
Hopefully, you have asked yourself how you can help us in improving our built environment to a point that complements rather than competes with our natural environment.
We’re always looking for ideas, partners and, of course, funding. Get in contact with us via Twitter, Facebook or email (SpringsUrbanIntervention@Gmail.com). Find us via the IndyGive! campaign this November and our new website at CSUI.org.
John Olson is a licensed landscape architect residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as director of planning and landscape architecture for EVstudio (evstudio.com/) Planning & Civil Engineering. He also is co-founder of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, which implemented Better Block Pikes Peak in 2012, the recent Walkability Signage found in downtown Colorado Springs and Curbside Cuisine.