The End of the Runway
Converting a former airport into neighborhoods highlights the
conflicts that come with "smart growth."
By Rachel Brand
Colorado natives remember the old roadside vistas: wide fields
of rabbit brush blowing under cottonwoods, prairie dogs digging
habitat for burrowing owls, an occasional fox stalking through the
fields. Those pristine short-grass prairie plains contrasted handsomely
with the blackened Rocky Mountain foothills and robin's egg blue
sky above. But such sights are rare these days as highways play
Main Street to blossoming subdivisions.
It's the classic dilemma of the West: Its beauty and sense of space
will continue to attract migrants until those qualities are gone,
planners say, unless developers create more sustainable, dense,
affordable housing within cities. Colorado has increased its population
by 2 percent a year for the past 10 years, twice the national average,
and expects to add one million people in the next decade. Acknowledging
growth's inevitability, one public-private partnership has crafted
a solution. They're turning a seven-and-a-half square mile patch
of land just minutes from downtown Denver, the site of the former
Stapleton Airport, into a dense new community to house 30,000 people.
Built in stages over the next 15 to 20 years, the new planned neighborhood
promises to conserve water, restore native habitats, and reduce
dependence on the automobile. But it also highlights the sacrifices
and conflicts that come with smart growth.
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