Columns » Outsider


City of the future


Spent Saturday in Denver, going from one Halloween party to another. The first was at a lovely house in the Stapleton development, attractively situated on a peaceful street next to a park. A few years ago it was an airport; today, thousands of homes and scores of businesses have utterly transformed the area.

Stapleton's control tower still stands, but that's it. Eager developers, a burgeoning population and soaring real estate prices have combined to create ... what? A development? A new city? A wonderful place to live? Stapleton is an example of the extraordinary power and velocity of development, and of the market's ability to respond to demand.

Here in Colorado Springs, one look outside makes us remember how fortunate we are to live in such a place. Who wouldn't want to live here? We all know the answer: lots and lots of people want to live here. And they'll come, whether we like it or not.

Governments may huff and puff, taxophobes may battle taxophiliacs, school districts may be taken over by loonies, but development just keeps on keepin' on. So, what's next?

Remember the Banning Lewis Ranch? Its 25,000 acres, east of Powers Boulevard, was annexed to the city a couple of decades ago and has been sleeping peacefully through the years.

That's about to change. They're breaking ground, with plans to build 75,000 residential units over the next 30 years -- 500 next year, 1,000 the year after that, and at least 2,000 every year after that. And that's not all. At build-out, there'll be 75 million square feet of commercial space, not to mention everything else -- parks, trails, schools, roads, trees, sidewalks, etc.

Stapleton may be a new city, but compared to Banning Lewis, it's a village. When finished, BL's population will be well over 100,000.

So, what will this new city be like? Who'll live there? Where will they work?

The easiest assumption is that it'll look like Briargate, or like any of the cookie-cutter developments on the east side, a dreary garage-scape of identical beige boxes. Well, maybe -- but maybe not.

For the last half-century, our community has been shaped by in-migration. We've seen an influx of mostly white, mostly conservative folks from other states. That's about to change, because of converging changes in national demographics and our local economy.

Locally, low-tech jobs (e.g., call centers) will shrink, as those jobs migrate overseas. And, in line with national demographic trends, Hispanics, Asians and other people of color will comprise a growing percentage of our population.

Colorado Springs residents in 2025 will be more diverse and better-educated -- and less likely to work for the military or Christian non-profits. Why? Because -- and here's an unsupported assertion -- neither sector is likely to grow much in the next two decades.

And what will Banning Lewis look like? Developers aren't fools; they create saleable products, and they've found out that, as buyers become more sophisticated, they like traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs). Stapleton's a TND, with detached sidewalks, straight streets, front porches, alley garages, and the feel of, say, Tejon Street. Much of Banning Lewis will have the same characteristics, and more -- its sales literature tells buyers that every house will be within two blocks of a trail.

And if Banning Lewis is anything like Stapleton, it'll be wonderful. Scarcely a fifth its size, Stapleton's a family-friendly place, where kids and dogs play safely in the quiet streets and spacious parks. It's also diverse and interesting -- architecturally, racially and culturally.

On our way to another Stapleton party last summer, we watched as a cheerful young family crossed the street on their way to the dog park. There was the harried young mom, the two adorable tow-headed kids, a large, friendly dog and ... Mom's life companion, a dark-haired, graceful woman!

That's Stapleton's present, and our future. Development's inexorable logic will compel Banning Lewis' creators to build the best city they can, because that's where the money is.

And wouldn't that be sweetly ironic: After liberals and moderates struggle for years to stem the conservative tide, the developers finally do it for 'em?


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