Helping Developers and Neighborhood Groups Find Common Ground

Few residents of well-established (and often-times historic) Denver neighborhoods like to get word of a new residential development coming their way.  With more than 100,000 people moving to Denver since 2010, new projects are inevitable.  In order to make these developments successful for everyone, it’s imperative that developers and neighborhood groups collaborate and work together when it comes time for good planning and design. At KGA, we have first hand experience working with developers and neighborhood groups to make urban infill projects a success. Here are some of our favorite common-sense approaches:

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Open the Lines of Communication Early and Often

In order to avoid confusion and delays, it’s critical for developers to communicate openly with neighborhood groups about their plans as early in the process as possible.  Otherwise, they run the risk of having others “tell their story for them”, which can garner more doubt and opposition, putting them on the defense.  Be proactive and host neighborhood meetings to share even the earliest stages of design ideas. Show how involved the development and design team has been in learning about what gives a specific neighborhood its character and charm.

Invite Ideas and Instill a Sense of Ownership

When hosting neighborhood meetings, encourage an interactive atmosphere, and seek feedback in a way the will bring about positive input rather than criticism.  For example, put up pictures of other buildings and residences in the neighborhood, and ask people to point out the things that appeal to them most.  Ask the participants to share their thoughts on the colors and materials they’d like to see used.  By doing so, you’ll give them a sense of ownership in the project and steer the discussion towards a positive dialogue.

The neighborhood association in this historic Colorado Springs neighborhood felt strongly about avoiding a hotel or institutional appearance for the John Zay Guest House expansion. Their feedback was incorporated into the design by creating one large building with the streetscape appearance of two separate single-family homes, which connect in the middle. By KGA Studio Architects.

Check Egos at the Door

Even the most visionary developer and creative design team can miss great thoughts and ideas.  And many of these will come from the people who live and work in the community where development is occurring.  Don’t ignore what people are sharing, and be willing to make concessions, even if it might eat away a bit at the profit margin.  In the long run, the willingness to bend a little in the early stages will save a lot of time and deliberation, which could become very costly.  Remember, time is money, and you’ll run short on both if pride gets in the way.

Don’t Shy Away From the Business Side of Things

With Denver’s population – and popularity – continuing to grow, new construction is not going away.  As an outcome, developers are obviously fulfilling real estate needs, and looking to make a profit on their investment.  And while nobody likes to lose their view of the mountains, or see their favorite restaurant full of newcomers, rational people will understand that real estate professionals are making a living and doing so in a responsible manner.  Don’t be shy about explaining the investment of time, energy and money in the interest of jobs, property values, and of course profits.

The Peak I model is part of 5390, a new urban infill community located on the site of the former El Jebel Shrine parking lots. The 3 story paired homes face the Willis Case Golf Course, so as not to overshadow the existing single-family homes in the neighborhood. By KGA Studio Architects.

When working with neighborhood groups, a developer’s reputation is at stake.  The way they interact with, listen and respond to a specific neighborhood group will determine how well they’re received by the next group they work with.  If the first steps they take are positive ones, it will help lead to a long road of success.

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