The guru's assessment 

click to enlarge Christopher Leinberger
  • Christopher Leinberger

We had to have him.

Christopher Leinberger of the Brookings Institution, an independent research and policy center in Washington, D.C., is considered the guru of "walkable urbanism," a man whose extensively researched successful revitalizations in the nation's downtowns, then picked apart and analyzed why they worked.

And when leaders were drafting the Imagine Downtown plan, he was an influential speaker.

In 2005, Leinberger recorded 12 steps to downtown revitalization based on what he had witnessed working around the country.

They go like this:

1. Establish vision

2. Create a strategic plan

3. Work for private/public partnerships

4. Create better building codes

5. Establish business improvement districts and other nonprofits

6. Create a catalytic development company

7. Create an urban entertainment district

8. Develop a rental housing market

9. Create a strategy to ensure there will continue to be affordable units in downtown

10. Create for-sale housing

11. Develop local-serving retail

12, Create a strong office market

In that order. OK, with a little room for movement.

So how does Leinberger think Colorado Springs is doing? We have the right idea, he says, (even if we're not exactly following his steps) but we have some challenges.

"In a walkable urban place, you need a critical mass and you're not there yet," he says.

In other words, size does matter.

That's not to say we can't do it, Leinberger says. We'd probably have a great rental market downtown if developers pursued it. And we have low enough housing costs to build a good for-sale market.

Of course, it would help if we weren't in the midst of a mortgage-loan crisis.

J. Adrian Stanley


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