Tribe taps unorthodox planning tool
Conceptual Grandview plan to result from new design effort

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 design.”

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 reflect-

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 public.






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