|The Southern Ute Indian Tribe
kicked off a cutting- edge planning process for its proposed
Grandview development this
week. There’s hope of averting the suburban fate that’s
already afflicting the nearby area./ Photos by Todd Newcomer
The local march of the new urbanism movement
is continuing this week with an intense but brief design effort.
Conceptual planning for development in the Grandview area began
this week with a process called “charrette,” a rigorous
effort to gain public and professional involvement and work
the bugs out up front.
In September of last year, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and
Crader family announced plans for as many as 2,000 new units
and 1 million square feet of commercial development on a 920-acre
site roughly two miles east of Durango. A central component
of the team’s plan has been the donation of 35 acres to
Mercy Medical Center, which plans to leave its undersized building
downtown and relocate. The tribe hopes to have the property
annexed within Durango city limits.
Since announcing its intent to develop, the tribe and Craders
have embraced the ideals of new urbanism – in essence
a “back to basics” approach to community planning
that concentrates on traditional town and city scapes. When
asked for an example of new urbanism, many local planners point
to an obvious older design – downtown Durango.
For Grandview, the Southern Utes and Craders have gone to the
top and enlisted the founders of new urbanism to design the
development. The movement can be traced back to the early 1980s
and Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk’s creation
of the Florida town of Seaside, which served as the too-perfect
backdrop for the 1998 film “The Truman Show.” With
Seaside, the husband-and-wife team intended to recreate a 19th
century Southern town in an effort to defy contemporary suburbia.
Beginning Jan. 8, Jeff Speck, of Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co.,
started working to defy suburbia in La Plata County. He kicked
off the process to design the future Grandview with a public
hearing at the Community Recreation Center. The intensified
process, or charrette, has never been tried locally until now.
“I think this is something new for Durango,” said
City Planner Greg Hoch.
The term charrette is French for “little cart”
and refers to the College of Fine Arts in Paris during the 19th
century. Professors would send out a cart to collect final drawings,
and students would hop on the cart in a frantic effort to put
on the finishing touches. The charrette process is characterized
by a similar quick pulse of intense work.
Over the course of the next week, the tribe and Craders hope
to gauge public and private interests and lay out a rough sketch
for the development of Grandview.
“This is the first step in trying to define a master
plan for our property and the Craders’ property,”
said Tim Zink, operations manager for the tribe’s growth
fund. “The concept of a charrette comes into play in that
we’re trying to bring together a lot of the stakeholders
in a very condensed time frame. We’re trying to really
focus and concentrate on the issue and come out with a better
The guiding principles of the charrette process include: getting
everyone involved at the beginning, working with a cross-section
of the community, undertaking rapid review and giving quick
feedback, and getting as much detail defined as possible. To
this end, a total of two public hearings will be held, and a
number of meetings also will be held in private.
“They are not trying to exclude the public, but there
will be certain private meetings,” said Millissa Berry,
of the Durango Planning Department.
Zink said these “focus groups” will include city
and county staff, engineering staff, members of the CDOT, the
Bureau of Land Management, neighbors and others.
“I would say this is a high-level charrette that’s
designed to engage the various interests here in a creative
and productive design session,” Hoch said.
He also noted that one of the purposes for hosting a charrette
is to get the public involved at the get-go and consequently
streamline the review process. “If you’ve involved
the public and the key property owners in the process and you’ve
ed their input, the chances of you getting a positive review
are enhanced,” he said.
Zink concurred, but said he has no illusions and that the tribe
and Craders are planning on going through the standard review
process. He noted that the charrette is simply a comprehensive
way of developing a rock-solid, design concept.
“We will still have to go through the whole process,”
Zink said. “Every developer has to come up with a concept.
We’ve just chosen this way to do it.”
The first public hearing was held Jan. 9. A public review of
conceptual sketches will take place Saturday, Jan. 11, from
10 a.m. to noon at 1129 Main Ave. A closing presentation will
be held Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. At that time, following a mere eight
days of the charrette process, the Utes and Craders should have
a conceptual plan of the future of Grandview to present to the