August 2019 — Multifamily Properties Quarterly — Page 23 Denver: 4582 S. Ulster St., Ste. 1500 • Denver, CO 80237 • 303.228.2300 Colorado Springs: 2 N. Nevada Ave., Ste. 300 • Colorado Springs, CO 80903 • 719.453.0180 Aspen: 16 Kearns Road, Ste. 212 • Snowmass Village, CO 81615 • 970.429.8855 FORTUNE M A G A Z I N E ’ S WE ARE ONE OF COMPANIES TO WORK FOR SERVICES Land Development Office/Campus Retail Single Family Multifamily Stormwater Data Centers Traffic Roadway Infrastructure Industrial Build-to-Suit Landscape Design Planning ENR RANKINGS #20 of the Top 500 US Design Firms #7 of the Top 100 Pure Design Firms #2 for Retail #2 for Multi-unit Residential #7 for Airports #9 for Highways #8 for Solar Power #8 for Transportation #10 for General Building #16 for Mass Transit and Rail #16 for Water Treatment and Desalination #18 for Sanitary and Storm Sewers #29 for Water Supply #43 for Sewer and Waste Explor e for more information. Design I t is a cultural imperative to manage and cultivate the growth of our built environ- ment to desired effect. Yet there is often difference of opinion on what the desired effect should be. In search of common ground, our built environment mat- ters. We want to thrive in our sur- roundings, not just survive. The beautiful built environments in the world are captivating. There is great variety in that beauty, from the densest of cities, to smaller towns, to rural ranch and farm land. The Denver metro area is one of those beautiful places. The proximity of natural wilderness, recreational abundance, urban cultural vitality and economic opportunity make Denver a top place to live. As a thriving, beautiful place, Denver has seen a great increase in demand. Increased demand strains and stresses infrastructure and ser- vices like utilities, schools, roads and open space. When the demand is poorly managed, the result is a decrease in livability. This is a problem, but it is a good problem to have! Where there is no demand, there is no growth. Healthy living things grow within their life cycle. The demand for growth and strain that results is being felt across the Front Range. There is a need for denser human habitation that is efficient and affordable. The charac- ter and livability of our region will be shaped by how we act. We have a responsibility to pass on to our chil- dren a built environment shaped by sound decisions. It is not easy or simple. It takes a committed team of intentional skilled profession- als focused on the goal. Growth can be done right. Lakewood recently passed a citizen initiative growth cap. Those who are involved in the political and professional practice of man- aging, designing and developing the built environ- ment were gener- ally opposed to the initiative. Despite the warnings of unintended conse- quences of a growth cap as a means to resolve the problems facing Lake- wood, voters spoke – the strain and stress on Lakewood’s built environ- ment needed to be managed better. There are legitimate concerns that led to its passage, but growth caps cause more problems than they solve. As an analogy, the body’s immune system warns of problems and starts measures to compensate for those problems. Allergy sufferers will tell you that the immune sys- tem can cause more problems than it solves. Lakewood is a beautiful, diverse city with quality retail areas, mixed- use and denser urban housing; the Federal Center; the Union corridor office area; many nice single-family neighborhoods of varying price points; parks and lakes; bike trails everywhere; the Colfax corridor with transportation-oriented devel- opment along the W light-rail line; good proximity to downtown; and good proximity to the mountains. There is much to preserve, and much to manage. Still, Lakewood is not perfect. No built environment is. Recognizing the life cycle of certain structures and neighborhood mod- els – maintenance, improvement, modernization and growth are nec- essary ongoing tasks. Now there is a statewide growth cap initiative being prepared for the 2020 election. There is worry that quick-buck greed among those who legislate, develop and build our built environment will destroy the liv- ability of our region. I acknowledge that there have been bad actors looking to squeeze every dime of profit out of a project with little concern for the legacy of the built environment they leave behind. That said, we cannot cast aside the motivation of socially conscious capitalism as a driving factor in the betterment of the built environ- ment. Sound practice, resulting in thriving beautiful places is ulti- mately better for both the commu- nity and the bottom line. Our region’s need for housing does not have to result in an unliv- able, boring or uninspiring built environment. Growth and change are stressful, but when the change is tangibly for the better, it is easier to accommodate. Design is a single- digit percentage of total develop- ment cost. Architects and other designers are trained in the imple- mentation of materials, massing, light and color to craft livable built environments for human thriving. Application of this skill is necessary to mitigate the stress and strain on communities that trigger responses like legislative growth caps. Yet because design fees are an upfront cost, they often get squeezed to within an inch of feasible, or shunt- ed off to the lowest bidder. Commit- ment of the whole team to quality design from the start can make all the difference. Beautiful places have character. What we design should fit in to that character. When an area requires it, design should reshape the char- acter to desired effect. Lakewood’s Belmar is an example of reshap- ing an area for increased density with a thriving livable outcome. In TOD contexts, where the charac- ter of an area is being reshaped, street activation and walkability are critical. In suburban contexts where multifamily is needed, scale and proportion – right sizing the development to its context, and including adequate infrastructure and open space, is critical. In single- family residential contexts, denser development needs to enhance the street and respect its neighbors. The rash of poorly realized, so-called slot-home developments is a prime example of poor design maximizing profit while stressing a neighbor- hood to the point of exacerbation. Parks, green space and public ame- nities make our built environment sustainable and livable. This doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive, but it does have to be designed. If we design and develop with respect for a neighborhood’s character, and with a mind on the legacy of the built environment we are leav- ing behind, the growth of our built environment can be done right. Let’s get to it! ▲ Growth done right: The built environment matters Erik Hall, AIA Partner and design director, Denver office, Van Tilburg, Banvard and Soderbergh AIA