- Who We Are
- Projects & Places
I nominate Golden, Colorado “Poster Child of the Month” for Heart & Soul Community Planning—and for every stripe of values-first visioning and planning across the country.
Congratulations Golden! You know what you’ve got and you want to keep it. And that makes you confident enough to keep saying NO to the Denver Beltway, 201-mile darling of the transportation/development establishment, and underway in fits and starts since the late 50s.
Golden’s residents understand that what others think is good for the Denver metro area will be disastrous for their little city, tucked between the foothills of the Rockies and two soaring mesas. While technically a suburb of Denver and only 25-30 minutes away from downtown, thanks to its geography—the way the mesas separate and shelter it from Denver and its suburbs surging across flat plains—Golden is decidedly its own PLACE. And that same topography (deep, narrow valleys leading into the sheltered City) makes construction of a multilane highway through its midst threatening to the heart, soul, and economy of Golden.
Golden recently confirmed both its distinct oneness and its separateness during a two-year Heart & Soul Community Planning initiative dubbed Golden Vision 2030. A central purpose of the Heart & Soul approach is to strengthen a city’s self identity to the degree where its residents and elected officials have the will to decide for themselves how their hometown changes and grows, rather than cede such decisions to developers or transportation experts.
Interestingly, one reason Golden has been able to hold out for all these decades starts in the mid-1970s when then Colorado Governor, Dick Lamb, said no to Federal dollars. That decision has necessitated private, state, city and user funding of the beltway, forcing phased construction for lack of funding. But that’s far from the only reason Golden has outlasted the highway builders. It has invested in its future by challenging the beltway in court at every step of the way.
Some find Golden’s stubborn resistance impractical and too late: “the cow has left of the barn” is given as a reason for Golden to relent. There is some truth to that argument, but, on the other hand, why should the transportation solutions of an increasingly outmoded and unrealistic past continue to prevail? Might this be an opportunity for folks to come together, focus on new realities, and seek original solutions?
A recent New York Times article quotes the Urban Land Institute’s CEO Patrick Phillips as saying: “It is an incorrect argument that if you can hold out against that last segment and not complete the ring it will be a bulwark against sprawl, because the sprawl already exists. From a regional planning and transportation perspective it makes more sense to have a full beltway than three-fourths of a beltway.”
From my perspective, it is an incorrect argument that jeopardizing the health of a thriving, unique place is a solution to anything. This is not an anti-sprawl argument. It is a pro-community, pro-place, pro-people argument.