development is a major environmental problem in U.S. cities. It cuts down on green space and creates
traffic congestion and air pollution. Even the host of the Democratic National Convention [August
25-28] is not immune. As one of the fastest growing cities in the United
States, Denver, Colorado, has suffered from poorly planned growth. But now city leaders are taking important
steps to protect the quality of life that has brought so many people to the
Rocky Mountain West.
Denver's new international airport
opened in 1995, the old Stapleton
Airport closed. That left
nearly 2,000 hectares of prime urban land within ten minutes of downtown
available for something else.
they said they were going to design in Stapleton became what it is, a
community," says George Johnson, who moved in with his family in 2001.
wife wanted to live further out, but the Denver Public Schools facilities
manager says he liked the central location.
"All the jobs were close."
is now eight years into its 20-year development plan. Eventually the community
will grow to 30,000 people, making it one of the largest re-development
projects within a U.S. city.
says he likes what his neighborhood has become. "We have pools. We
have a decent community. It's safe to
me. It's quiet in the evenings after
everybody settles in."
neighbors have schools and stores nearby.
The airport's concrete runways are gone, torn up and recycled into bike
paths, walking trails and retaining walls.
Four hundred hectares of trails and parks will eventually link Stapleton
to a national wildlife refuge.
"new urbanism" is a return to a previous era when neighborhoods were
compact says Tom Gleason, a spokesperson for Forest City Stapleton, the real
estate company developing the property. "They were the kind of places that
neighbors got to know each other."
And so is Stapleton.
is why Mark Mehringer chose to move here with his wife and 7-month old
daughter. His home has a front porch
and small garden with native drought-resilient plants that thrive in the dry
work-at-home dad who gets around by bike, Mehringer says the
pedestrian-friendly streets, nearby schools, shops and playgrounds suit his
growing family. "It [the
development] really speaks to us in terms of lots of open space and reusing the
was founded on environmental principles.
Homes and other buildings are constructed to green standards with better
insulation and windows that reflect the summer heat. Mehringer says these features and the solar panel on his house
make his home more energy efficient and less expensive to heat and cool.
is such a sunny area that it really pays to take advantage of it, especially
with the recent increases in utility bills." Mehringer says his investment has ended up being a smart
financial decision, not just an environmental one."
Gleason says sustainable development will continue to be central to the
community as it grows. "What we
try to do here at Stapleton is recognize that the environment has to be
protected, that there are certain things you can do in terms of careful
selection of the landscape to reduce the consumption of water and the design of
houses to make sure that they use as few resources as possible."
the 12-story control tower will remain as a monument to Stapleton's history,
Gleason says there are few reminders that the thriving new community used to be
an airport. "If we do our job
right we will integrate this property into the surrounding neighborhood so that
it is an extension of Denver. It's
Denver's opportunity to grow from within."
Gleason says Denver's solution to suburban sprawl is one
lesson city officials hope visitors to the Democratic National Convention take
home and recreate in their own communities.