What do we want to be? 

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Last Wednesday night, 700 people packed into Colorado College's Armstrong Hall to hear Richard Florida, best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, & Everyday Life. Florida, who was featured on the cover of the Nov. 4 Independent, discussed ways Colorado Springs citizens can make our city a place that brings out the economic, cultural and civic creativity in all of us.

Afterward, audience members submitted more than 100 ideas about how to make Colorado Springs a more creative, welcoming and nurturing place to work, play and/or raise a family. Here are some of their suggestions:

Create The Pikes Peak College of Art (as either a stand-alone institution or affiliated with one of the local colleges or the Fine Arts Center).

Have Colorado College, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community College and the Air Force Academy sponsor monthly lectures designed to share with community members what is going on at our four largest institutions of higher learning. For example, one month, sociologists from the four campuses would discuss their community-related research and other activities. The next month chemists, biotech folks or graphic arts professors would do the same.

Every Saturday afternoon and evening during the summer months transform Tejon Street between Acacia Park and Pioneers Plaza into a car-free zone. This community carnival would sport street performances, outdoor plays and music, crafts and ethnic food vendors, a farmers market -- the possibilities are endless.

Create a building that would serve as an incubator where budding fine artists as well as local artisans could collaborate.

Develop a self-sustaining (i.e., profitable) farm inside El Paso County so adults and children can be better connected to the land. Also create more community gardens.

Allocate at least $1 million from the city's Lodging & Car Tax to get art teachers back into our schools and to create a regionwide cultural commission.

Encourage the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, Environment Colorado, the Sierra Club and other consumer and environmental groups to have staffed offices in the state's second-largest city.

Urge local philanthropist Kat Tutor and other artists to build 10 more participatory public art installations in addition to the Uncle Wilber fountain.

Re-create Food for Thought gatherings, where liberals and conservatives converse with one another.

Create a monthly brown bag lunch series, where regular folk could learn about the mission and passions of such community movers and shakers such as Bill Hybl, Rocky Scott, Dick Celeste, Ann Oatman-Gardner, Susan Edmondson, Lionel Rivera, Jose Aponte, James Stewart, Mary Lou Makepeace, the publishers of both newspapers and the news directors of all local TV stations.

In addition to the out-of-state theater tours, the Pikes Peak Center should sponsor at least one or more big production shows that feature local actors, set designers, lighting experts and playwrights.

Change the name of the Colorado Springs Airport and Confluence Park to something cool and expressive. How about the Fanny May Duncan "Everyone's Welcome" Airport? Or Katharine Lee Bates Park?

Reinstitute domestic partner benefits for non-married city workers.

Broaden the local political debate by revitalizing the Democratic Party in Colorado Springs.

Set up a group to support our locally owned businesses, for these businesses make our community authentic, and they give back so much more to our community than chain stores.

Not only do we need a bullet train between Colorado Springs and Pueblo to the south and Denver to the north, but also it would be great to have a subway with stops at Fort Carson, Pikes Peak CC, The World Arena, downtown, UCCS, Academy and Powers boulevards and the Air Force Academy.

Create a club to nurture young (under 30) professionals.

Bring back Richard Florida. And this time get everyone to attend, including conservatives like Mayor Lionel Rivera, James Dobson, Pastor Ted Haggard and even Douglas Bruce.

Now for some good news

Many of the ideas people suggested are already happening in the Pikes Peak region. For example, several local nonprofits provide studio space as well as marketing and business assistance to local artists. Two of the best are the Business of Art Center in Manitou (685-1861, www.thebac.org) and the Downtown Arts District (DADA), which is converting the old city gas building into an amazing arts community.

There are several local farmers as well as community gardens. For more information contact Jay Frost at the Colorado Farm and Art Market, 491-1789

The Colorado Springs Young Professionals club works to nurture young (under 30) professionals and entrepreneurs (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ csyoungprofessionals/).

A new organization is designed to nurture and promote locally owned businesses: The Pikes Peak Independent Business Alliance, 326 N. Tejon St. (www.ppiba.org).

And while a local subway is probably not in the cards at the present moment, the passage earlier this month of the Denver FasTracks, as well as the El Paso County Regional Transportation tax, shows that voters are willing to support bold new transportation solutions.

And for those who missed Florida's presentation, and for those who want to hear him again, he will be returning to Colorado in late May 2005.

Several locals are also working with Florida to see if Colorado Springs can host a Creative City Celebration in 2006. Such a weeklong gathering would focus on ways we can learn from other cities how to nurture and catalyze our homegrown creative assets from within.

There is a lot going on. And there's a lot more potential. It's up to us to make it happen.

-- John Weiss, publisher


"Community of the Future" inaugural brainstorming session

To catalyze activities that will make Colorado Springs a better place to live, work, play and raise our families.

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 3:45-5 p.m.

Pioneers Museum, 217 S. Tejon St.

Contact John Weiss at jweiss@csindy.com


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