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Blogsadmin's blogWHY LONGMONT MUST ACT NOW TO RE-ENVISION THE ST. VRAIN RIVER CORRIDOR.
WHY LONGMONT MUST ACT NOW TO RE-ENVISION THE ST. VRAIN RIVER CORRIDOR.

THE ST. VRAIN RIVER CORRIDOR – LONGMONT’S GREATEST WASTED ASSET!
Why re-envisioning Longmont’s St. Vrain River Corridor from an industrial-commercial no-man’s land to a vital, thriving, high-density, mixed-used, transit-oriented, “smart-growth” corridor is vital to do now!
WHY NOW, WHY LONGMONT, WHY THE ST. VRAIN? –
THE TOP TEN DOZEN REASONS, - EXPLAINED:
                                                                                                                    by
#12. -  BECAUSE THE RIVER IS BEING NEGLECTED.
Once the original lifeblood of Longmont’s Chicago colony, over time the river has come to stand neglected today.  The largely “Commercial-Industrial” zoning along the St. Vrain represents a vestige of1800’s thinking, and is a poor reflection of contemporary concern and care for this “lifeblood of the city.  It is not reflective of current “state of the art” city planning practices, and is anathema to good stewardship of the river.
11.  BECAUSE AN OPPORTUNITYIS BEING SQUANDERED.
Denver, Golden, Estes Park, Breckenridge, and hundreds of other cities, all transformed themselves and their economies by recognizing and leveraging the value of their river corridors.  This is a proven strategy for creating a vibrant city.  Nearby Golden is a perfect example of the ability to improve its downtown.  Pueblo is investing close to $200 million in the 2nd phase of its river corridor development.  What is stopping Longmont?
10.  BECAUSE  OF RETAIL DECLINE: -, DOWNTOWN AND TWIN PEAKS NEED  PRO-ACTIVE SOLUTIONS.
The ONLY way to ultimately transform Downtown Longmont, and the Twin Peaks Mall is to create more patrons and customers!  The greatest opportunity for doing this, is developing the “brownfield” that lies along the St. Vrain River between the two. Furthermore, only a unique, personal, physical. shopping “experience” will compensate for the displacement of “online” / web buyers.  Currently a commercial-industrial wasteland lying in a largely man-made floodplain, the river  corridor holds the potential for an amazing high-density residential area, in walking distance, to downtown, Twin Peaks, and the future FasTracks station.
9.  BECAUSE THIS WILL CREATE “SMART JOBS” AND ATTRACT “NEW ECONOMY” BUSINESSES.
In EPA consultant B. Van Akkeren's "Smart Growth and Quality of Life: The Case For Competitive Advantage", he makes a compelling case that the future of “smart jobs", businesses, and enterprises driving the new economy will have a direct relationship to City development and growth choices.   Those cities that demonstrate that they “GET IT”, when it comes to providing an engaging, high quality of life, appealing environment, recreational and cultural opportunity, and sustainable smart growth and transportation systems – will be able thrive in the new century.
Does Longmont “get it”?
8.  BECAUSE THIS AFFECTS AND BENEFITS DOZENS OF OTHER LONGMONT ISSUES:
Besides downtown and Twin Peaks renewal; - overall economic prosperity, quality of life,  attracting new businesses, “smart jobs”, retail leakage, creating a walkable community, the FasTracks station, neighborhood preservation, sustainability, river stewardship, tourism, the perception and “Brand” of the city, ecology, natural resources, water quality, localization, even life safety, are all recognized and current issues that are significantly tied to this initiative and that will benefit from its implementation.
7. BECAUSE LONGMONT NEEDS A PRO-ACTIVE  VISION FOR ITS “BRAND” AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT.
Longmont needs a true VISION for its architectural/ physical/ “built” environment to become a vibrant city in the future.   A dead regional mall, empty shops, foreclosed homes, strip shopping centers and a sea of parking lots is not a vision, it is a happenstance –,driven largely by isolated, individual projects and commercial interests, built within the framework of an outdated comprehensive “PLAN” that lacks an overarching city-wide “VISION”. 
6 BECAUSE IT WILL TAKE OVER A DECADE TO PREPARE FOR AND CAPITALIZE ON FASTRACKS COMING
I strongly believe that concurrent with the river corridor, future FasTracks-related development will have a profound impact upon Longmont for decades after its completin.   Fifty years from now, over a million new, rerouted daily commuter trips will occur over the course of a given year.  The Denver to Longmont line will cost over $600 million to complete. With pro-active, visionary decision-making, FasTracks could prove to be a tremendous economic, social, and cultural boon. The river corridor is the “canvas” to make this happen.  Without proper planning it could have an extremely deleterious impact that creates traffic congestion, chokes neighborhoods, and becomes a significant future detriment to the City. 
As Longmont moves out of the current recession and new projects are built they will begin to “cast” this area as forever “Industrial” in nature, or as “Smart” infill development.  Opportunities for meeting the challenges of FasTracks will either be recognized now, planned for and addressed, or those opportunities will be squandered and lost forever.
5. BECAUSE MAN-YEARS OF RECENT WORK ARE ON THE VERGE OF BEING WASTED
The Great news – a huge step in this initiative has already been taken, and without significant spending!  To date, well over five man-years of effort has already been freely and quietly invested by DU Graduate School of Planning and Architecture students, professors, city board members, citizens, and many others*.  The incredible value of all this time and effort is at risk of being wasted if the momentum is not continued and the value leveraged into a tangible plan of action.  A community outreach and grassroots citizen campaign is needed now to keep this effort alive.
4. BECAUSE IT WILL COST NEXT TO NOTHING TO BEGIN, AND OFFERS HIGH LEVERAGE ON INVESTMENT! 
For virtually all the hundreds of cities in the US that have recognized the value of their river corridors, it began with an inexpensive community-involved visioning process.  This downturn in the economy is the IDEAL time to begin this process and create a framework for public and private engagement, without significant expense, by creating a “river corridor overlay district”, similar to what has been done with Main St’s ”overlay” business district. Ft. Collins, Golden, Estes Park and others have already “paved the way”.  It shouldn’t take inordinate effort for Longmont to follow their example, in the context of its own unique considerations to create such a district.  This inexpensive first step will set the stage for empowering stakeholder interests, working with and within the City’s framework, to begin this transformation, before it is too late.
3. BECAUSE THE COST IS INACTION IS TOO GREAT:
The 100-year floodplain of the St. Vrain has been widened up to 20 times its historic, “natural” width, because of roads and bridges and other man-made “improvements” over the past century.  This, coupled with the industrial nature of the area poses an imminent environmental, property, and life-safety risk that could run in the hundreds of millions.  Restoring the river to a more “natural/ environmental” state will be expensive, but can be financed by concurrent city income from “smart growth” in this area that is respectful of the environment.  Further industrial development can be a tipping point that will ruin the odds of such a successful transition.  Eventual FasTracks / “Transit Oriented Development” will compound our ability to address the issues if not done proactively NOW.
2.  BECAUSE LONGMONT’S CHILDREN DESERVE THEIR BEST FUTURE AND QUALITY OF LIFE.
Let’s face it – one of the most powerful tools for transitioning out of a recession boils to down general sentiment, optimism, and hope for the future.  The excitement for possibilities, be it new jobs, or  recreation, smart growth or economic development, new housing or new tourism, there is something for almost everyone in Longmont to get excited about.  The river corridor initiative offers Longmont’s citizens a rallying point for optimism and hope for the future. A venue to engage participation, capture the imagination, and lift the spirits of Longmont about the future.  This future will be a long way off in manifesting, but beginning NOW is the best hope for giving today’s children the best quality of life as tomorrow’s citizens.
and the #1 reason -  BECAUSE THE CITY NEEDS PRO-ACTIVE, VISIONARY LEADERSHIP NOW TO MOVE FORWARD!
This issue has garnered bi-partisan support, and was voted 6-1 as a topic of significance to be chosen for discussion at the 2011 Council retreat.  Over the years to come, the next Council seated in the upcoming November 2011 can be remembered for its leadership in seizing this opportunity toward continuing to move Longmont into a positive future (or as the Council that knowingly continued “business as usual”, and knowingly missed its chance).  The first steps will NOT require a huge financial investment, only the investment of leadership and a willingness to stand up and stand out.  This is an important issue in the current campaign season that may bring forth the candidates of courage and conviction towards fulfilling the greatest opportunity that lies in Longmont’s future.
  

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