Since its inception in 1978, N.E.S. (named after founder Nolan E. Schriner) has built a reputation as one of the preeminent landscape and planning firms in Colorado Springs. Now under the new ownership of principals Christian Lieber and Andrea Barlow, the company is continuing its march forward.
“We have a very strong client base in the community. We’ve done a lot of interesting projects,” said Barlow.
Those include ongoing projects with Colorado College, and work on the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, Memorial Hospital North’s expansion and the current “Ring the Peak Trail,” to name a few. The company has also worked on behalf of the city on the North Nevada Master Plan.
“It’s an interesting blend of projects. … It’s a wonderful mix and [allows] opportunities to shape the community and create those great places to live, work and play,” Lieber said.
The company aims for a balanced approach — integrating design with community wants and needs — that frequently involves addressing concerns residents may have about particular projects. One example: the “Ring the Peak Trail,” which crosses federal, state, county, city and, in some cases, private lands. The project is about 80 percent complete.
“Listening and gathering input makes the project better,” said Lieber. So N.E.S. often hosts public workshops and community meetings to hear from those both excited and concerned.
“Being able to work with the community and finding that common ground is one of those things we pride ourselves on,” said Barlow. “N.E.S. has a long, successful history in doing that. I think that’s part of the definition of building community.”
On the design side, N.E.S. is known for coming up with solutions to complex issues — such as topographical or geological challenges — as well as figuring out ways to work with the natural features of a site and keeping it a viable option for developers.
Specialties include urban design, land planning and landscape architecture. Sometimes a single project will include all three. A typical project includes determining land use, designing the project, creating a development plan, determining landscape architecture and working with neighborhoods to make sure the project is a good fit.
“The challenges are often created by misconceptions in the community about what a property’s use is. They’ll see a vacant property and think that it’s meant to be open space forever when it’s already zoned for commercial use or residential use,” said Barlow.
Reputation aside, the success of the company is often tied to the housing market, and though it has weathered difficult economic times, N.E.S. is basking in the current strong market.
“It’s an exciting time for Colorado Springs,” said Lieber. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm in our community about our future.”
Barlow, originally from Yorkshire, England, trained there as a surveyor before moving into planning, which she did for about 15 years in the United Kingdom. She began at N.E.S. as a project manager, then moved to associate, then principal. Lieber, from Iowa, studied architecture at Ball State University. He came to N.E.S. in the early ’90s and worked on projects such as the Colorado Springs Airport and early segments of Briargate. He then spent two decades managing TOPS (the Springs’ tax-funded Trails, Open Space and Parks program), and returned to N.E.S. in January 2017 as an associate.
Though most of the company’s work is in Colorado Springs, it also works throughout El Paso and Teller counties.
“Our goal is always to balance everyone’s interest and come up with the best solution,” said Barlow. “We know we’re probably not going to make everyone happy, but our goal is to make as many people happy as we can.”
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