City Center Series to feature film festival

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Although the philosophy of “New Urbanism” is more than 30 years old, the concept continues to gain relevance in cities like Colorado Springs — where an upcoming film festival will address the topic.

“New urbanism is not just about architecture or urban planning — it’s about making places livable,” said Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership. “More and more I see a desire in our community — not just in our downtown, but throughout — to make our city spaces as inviting and accessible as our incredible outdoor environment.”

The Downtown Partnership will host a “New Urbanism Film Festival” as part of its City Center Series, a program addressing topics pertaining to making cities such as Colorado Springs more livable, enjoyable and sustainable.

The event, scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 27 at Colorado College’s Cornerstone Arts Center, will feature 10 short films that span 90 minutes and are intended to initiate dialogue about how to improve the community.

New Urbanism arose in ’80s America to address suburban sprawl and promote well-rounded, environmentally friendly and easily accessible cities. The 1993 charter for the Congress for the New Urbanism (the movement’s organizational body) states that:

“Neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.”

According to its organizers, the film festival is also intended to illustrate how city design affects the lives of residents on a day-to-day basis.

“We can talk a lot about concepts, but to see moving images on-screen and hear from people in a variety of communities all across the globe in one evening really lights a spark,” Edmondson said. “These aren’t just mega-cities featured in the films. We’re also featuring cities like Fresno and Salt Lake City. I think what will make this evening great is our local ‘responders,’ who will provide context relevant to our own community after each of the short films airs.”

Those responders include Hannah Parsons, chief economic development officer of the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC; Ryan Tefertiller, urban planning manager for Colorado Springs; Mattie Albert, assistant election manager for El Paso County; and John Olson, director of urban design and landscape for Altitude Land Consultants. The emcee will be Warren Epstein, executive director of marketing and communications for Pikes Peak Community College.

Films include:

Built to Last, a film discussing the topic of new urbanism and how it can inform building more sustainable cities;

Denver ALMOST has One of the World’s Greatest Public Squares, a film by Colorado filmmaker Chris Jones that explains what makes good public spaces.

Cerebral City, discussing Melbourne’s redevelopment of alleyways into pedestrian plazas and business thoroughfares (the showing will be followed by a response from Tefertiller);

Urban Planning A-Z, a short film that takes a look at some of the terms used in urban planning, with Colorado landmarks as examples;

Awesome Tampa Bay, about an artist activist group in Florida that is revitalizing downtown Tampa using unorthodox techniques (followed by a presentation by Albert, who will introduce a new vision for Acacia Park);

Fresno Miracle, on the challenges and benefits of revitalizing a suffering California city — focusing on residential and economic growth in downtown Fresno — through community engagement (followed by a response from Olson);

Ponzi Scheme, an analysis of costs associated with a post-WWII American urban development model by Charles Marohn, founder of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Strong Towns;

DTLA Street Futures, a look at CicLAvia, Los Angeles’ open streets event that promotes walking, socializing and urban exploration;

Utah Transit: Conservative State Builds Progressive Transit, a film depicting Salt Lake City’s expansion of transit services to revitalize downtown and bolster its economic development (followed by a reflection from Hannah Parsons of the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC); and

Great Streets for LA, about the redesign of a dangerous intersection in Los Angeles with the help of the community.

Tickets are $10 per [City Series] event, or a series pass can be purchased for $30. Additional topics this year include Placemaking and Public Art on March 7 and The RiNo Story (River North community in Denver) on April 4, also at the Cornerstone Arts Center.

Last year’s series explored the revitalization of Las Vegas’ Fremont North district, walkability and community development. More information about this year’s City Center Series is available from the partnership.

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