Denver defies the ordinary. The gateway to the Rocky Mountains, Denver is one of the nation’s most walkable and bike-friendly cities.
Nestled along the Front Range, Denver was founded as a mining boomtown and later established itself as a center for rail transportation and agriculture. The city now flourishes with an entrepreneurial spirit increasingly focused on technology industries and a green economy. Where once the region was known primarily for precious metals and fossil-fuel extraction, it is now an international model of how to balance both the old and new energy economies.
From the early days of the City Beautiful movement, Denver has fostered a strong sense of place with urban parks, eclectic architecture and distinctive neighborhoods.
Built on a system of interconnected parks and tree-lined parkways begun in the 1870s, Denver today is a green oasis with over 5,000 acres of urban parkland, another 14,000 acres of adjacent mountain parks and more than 80 miles of city trails, many along urban waterways. Connected by watersheds, forests, sensitive ecosystems, trails and scenic drives, the Denver Mountain Parks system even has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
With an abundance of natural amenities and outdoor activities, Denver is ranked the fittest city in the U.S. (Colorado has the lowest obesity rate among the states), and is also the number one city where 25-34 year olds are moving.
Despite two national recessions in the past decade, the Denver region’s population increased by more than 400,000 to 3 million residents today, and will add 1.2 million more people by 2040. This growth has created numerous challenges related to sprawl, air quality, water supplies, sustainable economic growth and social equity – but also spurred the region into action. Most importantly, residents of the Denver region stepped forward in 2004 and voted to fund FasTracks, an unprecedented commitment to build more than 120 new miles of rapid transit throughout the region.
The multi-billion-dollar FasTracks project, soon to complement three existing light-rail corridors already serving the central business district and Denver’s southeastern and southwestern suburbs, is one of the largest mass transit projects under construction in the U.S. The Denver region therefore stands on the brink of a nearly unparalleled opportunity, but equally daunting challenge – to capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure investment to significantly enhance quality of life for people of all ages, incomes and abilities.
Denver exemplifies the vitality of a healthy, thriving city whose regional transit corridors offer promising opportunities for walkable, mixed-use development. By investing in infrastructure geared toward sustainable economic growth and mobility options, and embracing smart growth and infill development, the region is seeking to create what Wallace Stegner referred to as “a society to match its scenery.”
A significant factor in this event’s tremendous success is its appeal to so many different disciplines. The conference will draw a national audience of local elected officials and city and county staff; state and federal agency leaders; professionals in planning, transportation, public health, landscape architecture, architecture, public works, parks and recreation, and crime prevention; realtors, developers, builders and bankers; advocates for equity and environmental justice, youth, older adults, and walking and biking; labor representatives; school leaders and staff; environmentalists; and all others committed to building safer, healthier and more livable communities everywhere.
The program will span three full days with optional pre-conference events scheduled for Wednesday, February 12th and post-conference events scheduled for Sunday February 16th. The main program will kick off on Thursday morning, February 13th, and continue through Saturday afternoon. The schedule includes a dynamic mix of plenaries, breakouts, implementation workshops, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and coordinated networking activities. It will also feature exciting tours of local model projects in and around the greater Denver region.
There will be something for everybody, from veteran experts to smart-growth novices, with close to 80 sessions and workshops to choose from. Learn from hundreds of speakers who cross disciplines to share insights, valuable tools and strategies for making smart growth a success in your community. The program will be infused with sessions and case studies focusing on important social equity and environmental justice issues.
By bringing together so many different thinkers, practitioners, activists, community leaders and elected officials from an ever-evolving and expanding spectrum of disciplines and innovative perspectives, New Partners has guided a strong and diverse movement grounded in the values of sustainable communities for over a decade.
The origins of this conference can be traced to late 1995 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first launched its Smart Growth Program. As part of this effort, the EPA sought to organize a national conference that would focus on environmentally sensitive growth and development.
In December 1997, the EPA, together with the Urban Land Institute, co-sponsored the first “Partners for Smart Growth” conference. Conferences followed in Austin in 1998, then San Diego and finally, in Atlanta. The LGC participated in the San Diego conference, organizing a third day focused on smart growth in the Western States.
The LGC began organizing conferences on “livable communities” somewhat earlier, producing five installments of its highly successful “Putting Our Communities Back on Their Feet Conference” on the East and West Coasts in the mid-to-late 1990s.
In 2001, the LGC partnered with the Centers for Disease Control, the California Department of Transportation and Penn State University to produce a “first of its kind” national, multidisciplinary event titled “Redesigning Community: A Smart Growth Approach to Street and Neighborhood Design, Crime Prevention, and Public Health and Safety” in San Diego.
Immediately following that event, the EPA approached the LGC about merging their collective efforts. Addressing the key issues on the table, the appropriately titled “New Partners for Smart Growth” multidisciplinary conference has now made memorable stops in San Diego, New Orleans, Portland, Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Albuquerque, Seattle and Charlotte—building momentum and attracting new supporters every year.
Over the past decade, the basic principles of smart growth have not changed, but the realization of their importance continues to grow as more civic leaders, professionals, and interest groups recognize smart growth as a solution to the challenges in their communities. Thanks to a trail blazed by determined and visionary pioneers, smart growth is now widely and rightfully understood as a necessary, if not sufficient, way of addressing many of the most difficult economic, environmental, and social challenges we face today in communities across the country.
The enduring strength of the New Partners conference comes from the diversity of participants who cross disciplinary lines to share experiences, insights, inspiration, valuable implementation tools and strategies. The 2013 event will continue this exciting trend and welcomes even more new partners who recognize smart growth as a viable solution to the problems they encounter in their professions.
Check out our 10th-anniversary commemorative booklet from the 2011 conference.
With the critical challenges that lie ahead, there are more reasons than ever to join hands with new partners and work toward our common goal of creating safe, healthy, equitable, economically vibrant, and livable communities for all.