Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Denver's Delightful LoDo area -- A Lesson for Stadium District Development

This blog entry is reprinted from March 2005. I tried to fix broken links for major things, but most are not likely to work. The entry isn't particularly relevant to anything I mean to write about but haven't got to yet, it's just something most people are not likely to have read, and it's still very relevant to city planning and the siting of stadiums and arenas more generally.

I'm reminded of it because of the comment thread on the reprinted entry about intra-city transit networks, and the subthread on serving stadiums and special events like the Superbowl.

But I guess it would be worth doing an assessment of what's going on in the Capital Riverfront District these days.  More buildings are being constructed, retail is opening, the Canal Park ice skating rink has opened, and earlier in the year there was an interesting report released on the development opportunities of the Green Line (GreenPrint of Growth - Executive Summary and GreenPrint of Growth - Full Report), which of course, includes the Navy Yard station.

 (And in fact, I've since expanded my list of DC subway stations that comprise what I call the monocentric DC subway network to include Navy Yard (and Southwest Waterfront, from 29 to 31 stations, 32 if I start counting Rhode Island Station, which is still a pod in a less densely developed area, but this is likely to change over the next 10-15 years, as the shopping centers get redeveloped into more urban spatial patterns as opposed to the car centric patterns they are now.  See "Monocentric vs. polycentric transit planning in the DC region.")

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After writing the entries yesterday about planning for Washington's new baseball stadium (
LoDo is hailed by most sports business advocates as a revitalization success story sparked by the Coors Stadium. But if you read the book Cities Back from the Edge by Roberta Gratz (if you only have the time to read one book about urban revitalization, this might be the book for you, it's full of stories, mini-case studies) you know that the LoDo District story pre-dates the baseball stadium by about 20 years (in fact the book was researched over a period of five years before Coors Stadium was planned, and the book was published a year or two before the stadium opened).

Coors Field in LoDo, DenverThe stadium came to LoDo because it already was a great destination attracting visitors. Adding the stadium made a great district even more inviting.

This by the way is a key difference between Baltimore and Denver. LoDo is a real place, while Harborplace is fun, but created, without a lot of authenticity--do you really need to go to Harborplace to find a California Pizza Kitchen? (Read this case study of Harborplace from a Florida tourism group--which among its points states that the Inner Harbor has multiple quality transit modes .)

The Denver Tourism Guide describes the attraction of the Colorado Rockies baseball team thusly: "Experience some major league fun April 4, 2005 (or throughout the season) during the Colorado Rockies home opener at Coors Field. Enjoy the 76-acre ballpark centered in Denver’s lower downtown "LoDo" district". Yet, the travel review by Knight Ridder Newspapers journalist Anne Chalfant doesn't mention the baseball stadium at all in her description. In fact, she describes a trip that she took to Denver in January.

Chalfant describes a district that is worth seeing and visiting for days at a time because it has a lot to offer and is exciting, not because it is hard to get to or leave....

"I rode the Free [Mall]Ride everywhere for three days, hopping off and walking only a few steps or a block in this restored historic district of 26 square blocks of brew pubs, restaurants, stores, museums, parks. There's no traffic, just buses, on the mall, although Denver's mounted police are allowed. [Note how part of the strategy for promoting the LoDo District is great transit, not crappy transit and transit infrastructure.]

For three days, I lived the LoDo lifestyle, with nothing low about it. I ate dinner in one of the nation's top-rated new restaurants, Adega. I went to the theater in the nation's second-largest performing arts center. I gawked at the new wing of Denver's Modern Art Museum, the wing designed by Daniel Liebeskind, who won the bid for construction of the new World Trade Center space. And I considered taking up permanent residence in one of the comfy chairs at Tattered Cover, the nation's largest independent bookstore."
One of the places to visit is Wynkoop Brewing, Denver's first brew pub (founded by Denver's current mayor John Hickenlooper--do you think he understands the value of independent businesses in generating value, character, pride, and quality as the foundation of ground up community revitalization?).

LoDo Sign(Photo left and above from Flickr.) 

Here's how the website describes the brewpub: "You know we say “Park it Here” because there’s so much to do at the Wynkoop; you can park it once and have a great time all evening. There’s fanstastic food, homemade beer, pool, darts and tabletop shuffleboard. There’s a comedy club right downstairs, and you can even book a banquet for up to two hundred. So park it at the Wynkoop. Or get off the Light Rail two blocks away and park it here without parking at all."

Look at how much you can do in just one place in LoDo! Multiply that by the scads of other activities--restaurants, stores, and things to do. It sure sounds a lot more exciting than Herb Miller's proposal to build big box stores (Staples, Target, Sports Authority, etc.) next to the stadium on Washington's Anacostia Waterfront.

Exciting places are attractions, and part of urban destination development and management includes sound transit planning and expansion (such as the Downtown Circulator that is coming to Washington, through the initiative of DC's Department of Transportation, the Downtown DC BID and other stakeholders).

The book-movie Field of Dreams had it wrong, or at least incomplete: "If you build it [they] will come" but only if you build it right.

Things to see and do, places to eat, a place that is convenient to get to, and easy to get around once you're there--those are the "secrets" to great destinations.

I higly recommend to anyone the Nova Scotia Tourism Partnership Council's Tourism Destination Assessment Workbook. It really gets you thinking about the components of great places, whether or not you are trying to attract tourists.

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1 Comments:

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