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Next Steps for Kayla Gilbert

It is wiDown To Businessth both mournfulness and excitement that I write this announcement: I have taken a new position with the City and County of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health and am concluding my work at PlaceMatters. I have sincerely enjoyed and appreciated my time here–my amazing colleagues, our inspiring partners, and our great clients.

Through three years of working with PlaceMatters, I have learned a lot about community engagement, technology, and different initiatives we believe in, such as active living, mobility, and capacity building. Having initially been hired as an Office Manager, I took on the role of office control and helping to make sure everything ran smoothly at PlaceMatters, from invoicing clients to paying health insurance. PlaceMatters has set up a work environment that makes it easy to learn new things and take on new responsibilities, and I was encouraged to pursue new ideas, such as my passion for active transportation and community events. PlaceMatters provided me with valuable training and peer support to advance toward leadership positions.

Never one to shy from a challenge, I jumped in wholeheartedly to new projects, roles, and experiences. In my time at PlaceMatters, I have had the pleasure to take part in a number of exciting projects our team has worked on. To name a few of my highlights:

– Planning community engagement and a Street Festival last summer in Yonkers, NY, to gather community input on a brownfields redevelopment site for a multi-use trail, which will help community members have better multi-modal connections through the city and to better housing, jobs, and services.

– Helping with this past January’s training on Scenario Planning and Smart Growth for Superstorm Sandy Resiliency Planning in Long Island, to help build capacity for city staff to be able to locate and use the right tools to engage communities in sustainability and resiliency planning;

-Implementing parklets and tech fairs at New Partners for Smart Growth 2013-2015, and a presentation on tactical urbanism during our Community Engagement workshop at the 2015 conference; and

-Most recently, researching for and writing additional chapters for a Best Practices for Neighborhood Improvements to the Built Environment on tactical urbanism, walkshops, and parklets.

My time at PlaceMatters has been an incredible learning experience, and I know that I will continue to apply this knowledge, as well as learn more, in my new position with the City and County of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health. The primary emphasis of my future work will be to engage a wide range of community members through an Active Living Community Coalition, conducting built environment assessments around schools and recreation centers (using WALKscope, the tool we at PlaceMatters developed with our local implementation partner WalkDenver), and other projects. I will be advocating for a Health in All Policies approach to examining systems and policy level changes to improve the health of Denver, including policies around housing, transportation, health, environmental sustainability, health and social equity, and more.

I will be starting my new position in August and am greatly looking forward to this new opportunity. I will continue to stay a part of the PlaceMatters team in spirit, and look forward to the possibility of working with PlaceMatters and our other great local partners in my future position.

 

Best Practices of Neighborhood Improvements to the Built Environment

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Our local partner, Groundwork Denver, has published a collection of lessons learned and recommendations for best practices when implementing low-cost improvements to create better neighborhood environments, including improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, neighborhood cleanup, tree planting, and more. This is based on their work in Denver for the past several years.

Over the past couple of months, I have been working on additional chapters to this guide on tactical urbanism, walkshops, community engagement, and parklets. This work is made available to HUD grantees and folks interested in making a difference in their communities.

See the final version of the Best Practices Guide for Neighborhood Improvements to the Built Environment here!

This Saturday: Help shape Denver’s future at the DenverUP Scrimmage!

CBWish to help shape Denver’s future in a unique and fascinating way?

On June 6th, CityBuild and ReWork are teaming up for a full-day, immersive rapid prototyping scrimmage that will bring together Denver residents who care about making a positive impact on the Denver community (that’s you!).

The Challenges:

  • Urban Peak, which works with homeless youth, will be addressing the topic of how to better equip youth in their program for life-long employment.
  • EatDenver, which represents hundreds of independently owned local restaurants, will be exploring staffing challenges in the industry and mis-conceptions about careers in hospitality.
  • PlaceMatters will be exploring how Denver might be able to create (safe) public spaces for “unstructured play”, especially for those communities who don’t have a lot of resources at home.
  • Mile High United Way will be exploring how to make the Denver city centre more friendly and livable for families.
  • The Denver Public Library will be examining how to provide “library services” to emerging neighborhoods…but without requiring any brick-and-mortar
  • Zocalo Community Development will be addressing challenges with providing affordable housing options in Denver.
  • BikeDenver will be examining how we can create the right combination of biking, walking, car sharing, and public transport to reduce single-person vehicle commuting.
  • CityBuild will be exploring how we can engage more youthful generations in civic conversations

What’s rapid prototyping? A method used to accelerate the innovation process.

Wondering what’s in it for you? The scrimmage is a great opportunity to network with like-minded professionals, help create innovative solutions for leading organizations in the Denver community, and learn design-thinking and rapid prototyping skills that will translate to your professional life.

Wish to learn more about what prototyping looks like? Check out this 8-minute TED Talk from ReWork’s mentor Tom Chi, about building Google Glass.

When? Saturday, June 6th from 9:30am – 3:00pm

Where? Galvanize, 1062 Delaware St

Reserve your spot today! 

Just announced: Encourage a friend to join you and get a 20% discount! Just make sure to purchase your tickets together and to select the “Group” option on Eventbrite.

Re-Imagining West Colfax: Join Us on June 11th!

Calling all West Colfax community members, visitors, business owners, and advocates for biking and walking!

The West Colfax Business Improvement District, in conjunction with local partners, is hosting a resident engagement kick-off meeting on June 11th! Join us at Confluence Ministries from either 9 to 11am or 6 to 8pm to learn about the project and provide input on design preferences to improve walking and biking along West Colfax.

The feedback will be used to inform design decisions for a temporary installment of improvements for pedestrians and cyclists this summer in a tactical urbanism design demonstration.

 

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Parklets from PlaceMatters & Alta Planning + Design at this year’s NPSG Conference

Have you ever gone to a conference in a park? How about a park at a conference? This January, attendees at the 2015 New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) Conference in Baltimore, MD had a chance to do both.

PlaceMatters teamed up with Alta Planning + Design to design, build and host two parklets in the foyer of the conference venue. The parklets welcomed a steady stream of visitors throughout the conference, many of whom found it a perfect place to hang out, meet, and enjoy lunch.

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Above, left: Tech Fair presenters take a quick lunch break at the Reimagining Streets Parklet. Right: Conference-goers utilize seating in the Active Living Parklet for some work catch-up.

 

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FREE Webinar: High-Tech High-Touch NCI Charrette Training

Join us for a free hour-long webinar to learn about the latest high tech/high touch version of this collaborative process for innovative design, taking place on April 7th at 12pm MT. Register here.

Architects and inventors have known for centuries that the most creative way to work is to immerse themselves in a problem for an uninterrupted period of time. The charrette brings specialists and stakeholders together for an uninterrupted period to break through to a creative solution. What normally takes months is accomplished in a fraction of the time.

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In this webinar we will discuss how the NCI Charrette System™ can be used to cut project timelines in half, gain broad stakeholder support and develop out-of-the-box creative solutions.

Presenters:

  • Bill Lennertz, Executive Director, National Charrette Institute
  • Ken Snyder, CEO, PlaceMatters

 

 

What makes West Colfax so wicked for pedestrians? WALKscope data provides insight.

Famously dubbed “the longest, wickedest street in America,” Denver’s Colfax Avenue offers a myriad of diverse destinations ranging from bars and restaurants to elementary schools to major employment centers to steam baths. The public buses that traverse Colfax are among the most used in Denver’s entire transit system, with the highest boardings per hour and lowest subsidies per boarding. Outside of downtown, Colfax may be the busiest pedestrian corridor in the city.  And yet, as anyone who has spent time on the Avenue can attest, Colfax can be an unpleasant and sometimes even unsafe place to walk.  A new report from WalkDenver and partners highlights some of the factors that make Colfax, specifically West Colfax, so wicked for pedestrians.

Many intersections along West Colfax, such as this one at Vrain Street, have no crosswalk or traffic lights, requiring pedestrians to walk several blocks out of their way to cross the street safely. Photo source: WALKscope.org.

In the summer and fall of 2014, WalkDenver, PlaceMatters, the West Colfax Business Improvement District, and Ken Schroeppel’s Planning Methods class at the University of Colorado, Denver, College of Architecture and Planning partnered to audit the pedestrian environment along the West Colfax corridor. Trained neighborhood volunteers and planning students used the WALKscope mobile tool to collect data about sidewalks, intersections, and pedestrian counts throughout the area roughly bounded by Sheridan Boulevard to the west, Zuni Street to the east, 19th Avenue to the north, and 10th Avenue to the south.  A total of 1,532 data points were collected: 1,062 sidewalks, 425 intersections, and 45 pedestrian counts. Major findings of this assessment include the following:

  • The places where the most people walk, including Colfax Avenue and the areas adjacent to light rail stations, are the least pleasant and the least safe for pedestrians.
  • Unsafe traffic speeds are a major problem on Colfax.
  • Crossing distance is also a problem on Colfax. Pedestrians must cross 5 or more lanes to get across Colfax at pretty much every intersection.
  • Crosswalks are few and far between on Colfax, where they are needed most. In many cases, people have to walk several blocks out of their way to cross at an intersection with crosswalks.
  • The lack of buffers between sidewalks and the street degrades the pedestrian environment.  With few exceptions, the sidewalks along Colfax are all “attached,” meaning they are directly adjacent to the street with no buffer.

Click the infographic above for more details, or view the full report here. PlaceMatters and WalkDenver is continuing to work with the West Colfax BID and surrounding neighborhoods to identify potential interventions along the corridor that would improve the pedestrian environment, and we hope to demonstrate some of these design concepts with temporary installations.

This blog post was cross-posted with permission from WalkDenver. View its original posting here.

 

Training on Scenario Planning and Smart Growth for Superstorm Sandy Recovery on Long Island

In January of 2015, Placeways, PlaceMatters, and CH2M HILL developed a training on Scenario Planning and Smart Growth for Superstorm Sandy Recovery on Long Island. This effort was made possible through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) managed task order funded by an interagency agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The training was a five-day workshop for over 20 attendees from local agencies in the region, with information and hands-on training on high-tech engagement tools, low-tech/on-the-ground engagement techniques, scenario planning, CommunityViz, and other tools to use for recovery planning.

Since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the New York-New Jersey region in October 2012, the need for better knowledge about using scenario planning tools for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery planning within the region has become apparent. This five-day training on Long Island introduced participants to integrating various tools within the recovery planning process – including tools to support scenario planning, help increase engagement and provide critical analysis and communication of complex issues. The training also helped to build local capacity on strategies to incorporate scenario planning with public engagement, smart growth concepts, equitable development issues, and hazard mitigation.

The first full day of the five-day training brought together 30 participants for presentations and demonstrations of how to incorporate both high-tech and low-tech tools – including scenario planning – into the planning process. This first day was designed to include a broader group of stakeholders than would attend for the remainder of the training and therefore included a general overview of scenario planning and other tools to help provide some context and guidance on ways to inform the recovery planning process.

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Over the next four days, a subset of the participants spent a significant amount of time learning about and using tools to support recovery planning and resiliency. The first two days were spent in hands-on training using CommunityViz – a powerful, GIS-based scenario planning tool – and various models and data sources that can integrate with CommunityViz to help inform recovery planning. These included FEMA’s Hazus-MH, EPA’s EJ Screen, and NOAA’s Digital Coast. During the final two days, the group split into teams to build on the skills gained during the hands on training. These teams worked together to define projects that interested them and used the tools presented during the first three days to perform an actual analysis. At the end of the final day, the four teams presented their projects to the rest of the class and to over a dozen local and regional agency officials attending via screencast. These presentations can be viewed below or here.

The projects included:

  • Coastal Re-Development – Making the Case for Evolution in Suburban Zoning,
  • CommunityViz and FEMA’s Environmental Benefits Calculator for Evaluating Open Space
    Restoration and Property Acquisition,
  • Identifying Suitable Locations for Secondary Sewage Treatment Plant, and
  • Elevating Structures in Barnum Island/Harbor Isle/Island Park.

As communities work to create more robust and informed resiliency plans, it is often difficult to determine which tools and techniques to use. This includes trying to determine the best way to integrate these tools and techniques to maximize public engagement, increase local capacity, and encourage long-term resilience. As part of this training, attendees were introduced to a number of important tools and resources to help inform this process – including an introduction on how best to maximize the use of particular tools during the planning process. Available for download below is the full final report on this training, including a list of many of the tools and techniques presented to the attendees during the training, along with links and information to support successful implementation of these tools.

Download Final Report: Scenario Planning & Smart Growth for Superstorm Sandy Recovery

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High-Tech High-Touch Planning Tools™ Certificate Training

We are happy to announce that we will be partnering with the National Charrette Institute to offer a High-Tech High-Touch Planning Tools Certificate Training this May in Washington, D.C. This training will augment NCI’s Charrette System™ Certificate Training, which teaches trainees about creating a collaborative planning process that harnesses the talents and energies of all interested parties to create and support a feasible plan.

High-Tech High-Touch Planning Tools™ Certificate Training
brought to you by PlaceMatters and the National Charrette Institute

Confused by the wide range of high-tech planning tools available? Having trouble picking the right tools for your projects? This 1.5-day training will give you a hands-on introduction to many effective high-tech tools for project research, stakeholder engagement, landscape exploration, mapping and scenario planning, idea generation and prioritization, and communication.Together, PlaceMatters and NCI will provide a working understanding high-tech tools that are synchronized with the NCI Charrette System™ to support and enhance successful public involvement efforts, helping you maximize the reach and quality of your engagement and leverage your limited engagement budget.

Washington, DC • May 7-8, 2015
$500 before 2/20/15, then $585
Register •  Flyer
**The NCI Charrette System™ Certificate Training is a prerequisite for attending this training**

NCI Charrette System™ Certificate Training

The purpose of this 3-day training is to teach you how to design the right process for your project that will result in the best solutions with broad support. Participants will gain a practical understanding of how to apply the NCI Charrette System™ to a wide range of planning projects. You will gain a working knowledge of the 13 most important NCI Charrette System™ tools and techniques. NCI experts will give you tools for building relationships and changing perceptions throughout challenging situations. You will learn how to save time and money by reducing rework through the short feedback cycle work flow, and how to use design as a conflict resolution tool to create an aligned vision and shared solutions.

Washington, DC • May 4-6, 2015
$700 before 2/20/15
Register • More Info

The National Charrette Institute (NCI) is a nonprofit educational institution building capacity for collaborative solutions. NCI teaches the NCI Charrette System for project planning, design and realization to public and private professionals and community leaders.

PlaceMatters is a Denver-based non-profit think tank for civic engagement and process in planning. Our work creates opportunities for informed, inclusive decision making in the planning of vibrant cities and communities.

First + Final Mile Connectivity and Equitable Access in Transportation

Current trends in Denver and nationwide show that people are driving less and walking and biking more. They also show that Colorado is rapidly densifying as more people move to urban areas to live, work, and play. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., Denver’s population is increasing especially in the millennial age range, and with over 60% of Downtown Denver employees using transit, bike, walk, or share the ride to work, this creates enormous pressure on our infrastructure and on our neighborhoods to plan for and implement successful transit oriented development (TOD) projects to be able to move more people more efficiently.

In 2014, The City of Denver released its TOD Strategic Plan to specifically address TOD within the Denver region, identifying six core strategies critical to creating communities that are walkable, livable places and provide citizens with access to most of their daily needs. Of these strategies, the City specifically highlights the importance of first and final mile connections, noting that successful implementation of first and final mile considerations increases “the reach of a station into the community,” and improves “resident and business access to the rest of the RTD passenger rail system and the regional economy.” The plan continues by stressing the importance of removing barriers to transit-oriented development and improving multi-modal first and last mile connections around rail stations. Doing so can help “fill in the missing urban fabric between Denver’s new rail transit system, established neighborhoods, and emerging areas.”

For transit users, the hardest part of using transit isn’t actually the buses themselves. It’s everything between home and transit, transit and destination. For example, a few weeks ago, I was staying in a different part of Denver housesitting for a week. I normally bike to work, but was further away and it would have more than doubled my commute from just over 2.5 miles, along the lovely Cherry Creek Trail, to over 5 miles, the additional miles being mostly on street (with a bike lane), or just over 6 miles on trails. Always eager to experience different transportation modes around Denver, I instead opted to take the light rail, which was conveniently located only ½ a mile away from I was staying. Looking up directions on how to get to the I-25 and Broadway station safely by bike, I was surprised to find that there was no good way to get there on bike, other than riding on Broadway, a major seven-lane boulevard underneath the I-25 highway overpass (which I’d have to make a left turn at), or its narrow attached sidewalk, covered in potholes, cracks, obstructions, and even some broken glass, for at least a block.

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This section at Broadway is in no way welcoming to cyclists, so I decided to use the sidewalk. Carefully avoiding the obstacles, I eventually crossed Broadway safely, getting back onto the street which turns into the light rail station, and was abruptly cut off by a car—note that there is only one wide driving lane and no bike lane on this road–finally cruising into the light rail station with barely time to spare to catch the next train.

So what’s the big deal? I made it to the light rail, and it was only a little inconvenient, right? But that’s just me, the kind of person that relishes taking public transportation and biking. But what about the person without a smartphone, unable to look up the best route to get across a busy street? What about a mother with a stroller and young children trying to navigate the potholed narrow sidewalk along a busy street? What about the fact that I had to do it all again, in reverse, that night when I came home, in the dark? Would you just decide, with all these questions flying around in your head, that you would probably just drive instead?

These are the barriers to first and final access that drastically affect how and how often people use public transit. First and final mile planning looks at the infrastructure and environment around transit, making it safer and easier for riders to get to transit stops. The first and final mile can include any range of transportation modes: walking, biking, skating, scooter, taxi, carpool, other transit, etc, but walking is the most frequent first and final mile mode, just as in most major metro areas; in LA, more than 80% of Metro trips begin by walking to transit (Streetsblog LA, per Metro survey). With investment in first and final connectivity, transit can be more accessible to a larger and more diverse population, serving to increase ridership; encourage healthier and more sustainable modes; and also make areas around transit stops more active, safe, and economically thriving.

There are many different projects to improve first and final mile connectivity. Road diets and other various improvements to pedestrian infrastructure can go a long way toward creating a safer and more enjoyable walking commute to transit. RTD has added art to transit facilities along the West Rail Line to make the transit experience a bit more pleasurable for waiting riders. Even ideas such as updating bus signage and wayfinding signs, or making alleyways safer and more artistic, or just adding more facilities for transit users, can make a significant impact on first and final mile connectivity.

Despite the importance of understanding these first and final mile connections, there is currently little to no data in the region to inform and support these ideas, resulting in them being overlooked in transportation infrastructure planning. Last year, PlaceMatters took the first step toward addressing first and final mile considerations when we received a grant from Mile High Connects, in partnership with WalkDenver, to develop a crowdsourcing data collection tool called WALKscope. This innovative tool allows users to collect data related to sidewalks, intersections, and pedestrian counts. The crowdsourced data makes a significant leap toward addressing one of the key data gaps in first and final mile connectivity by identifying barriers and helping build the case for improvements. In less than a year, we have collected over 4,000 surveys that document the quality of pedestrian infrastructure in the greater Denver region. The WALKscope tool complements the WalkDenver pedestrian audit and the PlaceMatters Walkshop – an interactive program we have offered in four communities and deployed to more than a dozen organizations. Walkshops take people out on the streets to investigate and imagine potential changes in the built environment that would help support inclusive, affordable, and vibrant communities and connections to multi-modal transportation. We have found that the combination of an in-person event and an innovative tool is a highly effective way to engage residents in conversations about urban design, access, mobility, affordability, community assets, and economic health. These conversations have led, in turn, to data-driven recommendations for mobility and infrastructure improvements.

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As our region continues to invest in the expansion of our regional transit network (with Union Station, FasTracks, BRT, and more), we must pay attention to the transit system’s condition and the overall experience of residents using it—from start to finish. How are people getting to and from the transit network? What is their experience walking or biking to the train station or bus stop? What is the overall experience using the existing transit system? Are there barriers to access or safety that discourage or limit the use of low-income, disabled, or other typically underserved populations? Thanks to the WALKscope tool, we are becoming more informed about the pedestrian experience, but we still lack critical information on other key measures of first and final mile connections, such as biking, bus stops and stations’ quality, and transit experience. We aim to address some of these gaps by expanding on the WALKscope tool and adding BIKEscope, TRANSITscope, and STATIONscope tools to our toolkit. This additional data will be key in identifying potential solutions for more equitable transit access, as well as building awareness and a larger movement around first and final mile access issues.

We are currently undergoing major developments of this first and final mile toolkit and pursuing grants and partners to help us with this mission. A new version of WALKscope will be available by early 2015, followed by the full First + Final Mile Toolkit, and the application used to collect data will be made available as an open-source project for communities interested in using the First and Final Mile Connection Toolkit. Stay tuned to our blog for upcoming news or contact Kayla or Critter [at] placematters.org.