Better Block Pikes Peak: A Colorado Springs Urban Intervention

by John W. Olson on September 16, 2012

Better Block projects have been popping up nation-wide, and on Sept 21-22 Colorado Springs will join the movement.  By identifying underutilized urban neighborhoods and streets, Better Block projects have a history of transforming places into active destinations brimming with life.

Better Block Pikes Peak project is led by a group of volunteers, businesses, and partnered with the City of Colorado Springs.  The project is to transform a section of Pikes Peak Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs currently populated with Downtown’s only 4-Star Hotel, restaurants, a theatre among other great businesses. Today, this one block stretch of Pikes Peak is a “good block” – but it has great potential to be a “great block.”

Graphic Courtesy of EVstudio Planning

Pikes Peak Avenue is approximately five-blocks in the heart of downtown with an incredible view corridor of Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain.   John Olson, who is leading the effort states”The view of Pikes Peak is an incredible amenity.  At our city’s founding, this street was purposefully laid out to be very wide to capture this incredible view.  But now the street – with the most incredible vista in our downtown –serves as vehicle storages with parked cars in its center island.  A group of us leading this “Better Block”   have long asked ourselves why this historic street with the greatest vista in heart of downtown has a foreground image of parked cars in its median?  Is this the highest and best use of this prominent street?”

Graphic Courtesy of HB&A Planning.

The Better Block group is planning a living experiment to find out the answer to this question.  This temporary transformation involves an intervention of the street for a 24-hour period to demonstrate everyday life on Pikes Peak Avenue with the street designed for the pedestrian, not their car.

Nick Kittle, Colorado Springs Manager of Administrative Services and Innovation said “This project is a potential game-changer in urban planning because the group is doing an actual live implementation instead of relying on typical urban planning tools, like drawing up plans, to communicate the idea.  In this way, city employees, planners and citizens can actually EXPERIENCE the concept.   This gives us opportunity to gather information of what works and what doesn’t before capital investment, and puts us leaps and bounds ahead of the typical planning cycle.  Decision makers in our city will potentially learn from this project”

Better Block Pikes Peak looks forward to seeing how people engage with the  transformed street  and hear from citizens whether they like it, how it can be improved.

Date:                                     *September 21, 2012 (Beginning at Noon) to September 22 at Noon.

Location:                              Pikes Peak Avenue (Between Nevada and Tejon)

* In the case of minor inclement weather events (heavy rain); the demonstration may be delayed. In case of a major weather event or natural disaster, the demonstration will be postponed to September 28 – September 29.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John W. Olson November 16, 2012 at 8:38 am
John W. Olson November 16, 2012 at 8:37 am

Thank you Diane, we had a lot of fun with it and are now starting to download the data and information to the Colorado Springs Urban Intervention website:
Thank you for your interest, we will have more to come soon.

Dianne Lloyd September 25, 2012 at 9:36 am

I was driving West to East in the a.m. on Friday and was reminded of the Better Block effort that I had read in the Gazette several days before. It was fun to see the volunteers decorating and setting up their creations. AN OASIS IN A DESERT! I’m not a downtown walker, but I am a frequent driver and shopper. It was refreshing to see people working together in an effort to give a new look and breath to downtown. I think a permanent OASIS downtown would be of an uplifting benefit to it’s goer’s. Thank your volunteers and good luck in your presentation(s) to the Greater Downtown Business District, the Downtown Partnership and even the City Council!

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