Thursday, October 26, 2006

Parks and Recreation press release

For Immediate Release:

October 26, 2006

Contact: Tiffiany Moehring, 720-913-0633

Denver Parks and Recreation

201 West Colfax Avenue, #601

Denver, Co 80202

Daniel Libeskind's Civic Center model moved for public viewing ease

(DENVER) The three dimensional model created by Studio Libeskind of ideas for Civic Center Park has been moved to the Denver Public Library, Denver Western History Department, 5th floor, 100 W. Fourteenth Avenue Parkway, to allow for greater public access and longer hours. The display will offer the public an additional opportunity to explore the ideas presented by Libeskind on August 30th, 2006 during a town hall meeting at theColorado Convention Center. Comments are being collected through an online survey available at:

Libeskind was contracted by the Civic Center Conservancy to develop conceptual ideas for revitalizing the park that would inspire public discourse and stimulate community interest and participation in park improvements.

While the Libeskind ideas present some exciting concepts for revitalizing the park, the combination of inspiration, public process and the objectives of the master plan will be the driving force for the parks future, said Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Kim Bailey.

Since August 30th, when the ideas were unveiled to the public at a town hall meeting, a series of public forums and community discussions have been hosted by Denver Parks and Recreation and the Civic Center Conservancy, dubbed Civic Center Sessions.

The planning ideas that were presented by Daniel Libeskind do not represent final designs but rather are intended as a starting point to inspire the publics imagination beyond ordinary solutions.The purpose is to seek public input to not only to respond to Mr. Libeskinds planning ideas, but also to give park stakeholders and the citizens of Denver an opportunity to voice their opinions on the potential future of Civic Center.This is only a beginning point of a much larger process needed to implement park improvements.

Currently, there are no funds to undertake a complete design process or construction planning. Therefore, this initial public dialog represents only one step in a much longer process that is required to implement future improvements. All ideas are welcome at this point as we strive to be open-minded and encourage creative solutions to come from all points of view. This dialog will help us determine priorities for projects worthy of pursuit.The process for implementation will be another separate phase, if there is a funded project to pursue.The selection of the architectural team that includes a well developed public involvement process, would be undertaken when a project is funded for implementation.

There are two remaining public forum opportunities aimed at gathering citizen input. These meetings are part of a 3-month long series of public meetings regarding the future ofCivic Center.

November 15 The Park People Panel Civic Center Renaissance Colorado History Museum 5:30- 7:30 PM

The public event will be held at the Colorado History Museum on Wednesday, November 15th, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m- The museum is located at 1300 Broadway.-Free and open to the public.

-John Temple, editor, publisher and president of the Rocky Mountain News, will serve as moderator of the discussion.? Panelists include:

Tina Bishop, landscape architect and partner with Mundus Bishop Design

Kathleen Brooker, President of Historic Denver

Richard Farley, Principal of CIVITAS urban design firm

Kathy Hoeft, architect and historic preservationist

Dennis Humphries, Principal of Humphries Poli Architects

? Dr. Thomas Noel, Professor of History and Director of Public History, Preservation & Colorado Studies at CU-Denver

December 6 Civic Center Conservancy More ideas Colorado History Museum5:30 7:30 PM

The Libeskind ideas have sparked a number of design ideas for the park by local architects and landscape architects. The Civic Center Conservancy will host a presentation of the plans and follow up discussion. Participating presenters include:

Yong Cho

Steve Chucovich

Dave Duclos

Richard Farley

Susan Saarinen

Randle Swan

David Tryba

William Wenk

Public comments will be included in a summary report to the Denver Parks Advisory Committee in January, 2007.? A public announcement will be made when the details of the report presentation is finalized later this year.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Who exactly is in favor of the Libeskind Plan?

Read Mary Voelz Chandler's article in the Rocky Mountain News
Public Balks at Libeskind's Civic Center Plan ,,2777,DRMN_23962_5081586,00.html
to learn that Elaine Asarch, the President of the Civic Center Conservancy believes that (in reference to the Libeskind plan) " There has been no critical analysis yet. But a lot of people have liked it. They are not coming to the meetings."
So, we wonder, who are they?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

We Want to Hear From You!

Do you have a photograph that shows the beauty of Civic Center? Or perhaps one that show the need for some care and attention for the park? Please send your comments to us with your photos and we will post them on this site. If you have created drawings or plans, please send them our way and we will post them. And please don't leave this site without taking a few minutes to fill out the on line survey and sign the petition.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Landmark Commission briefing

Helen Kuykendall of Parks & Recreation summarized the 2005 Master Plan and described steps toward its implementation: 1 - formation of Civic Center Conservancy to raise money for implementation; 2 - grant application for restoration, and request that restoration money be included in proposed bond issue; 3 - Conservancy engaging Libeskind to generate ideas for enhancements. Shown on two boards called a "Vision Plan," his structures are intended to be lightweight and transparent, emphasize the east-west axis, provide activity and draw people, and improve pedestrian access. She said presentation of these ideas is intended to generate discussion and creativity about the park, and that the large turnouts at the meetings show that it is working.
About 20 people were there, and about 10 spoke - all speakers had concerns about the designs or the process or both. Comments included:
concentrate on maintenance and security; restore existing before adding new structures; these ideas are "froo-froo" and unnecessary; historic and architectural significance of the park very important and should not be ignored; Vision Plan does not follow goals of Master Plan; not appropriate to try to solve transient social problems with architecture; is private money having too much influence at the expense of the public interest.
Comments from members of the Commission included: Is it possible that the Vision Plan might require de-listing the park from the National Register of Historic Places; P&R should be congratulated on scheduling so many public meetings; what will happen to all the survey responses and public comment; the Parks Dept had final authority and the LPC can comment, but not veto P&R plans for parks; at Red Rocks, it was public involvement that changed that renovation from bad to good. The LPC did not take any action.
Two meeting were announced:
Park People panel discussion - November 15, 5:30 - 7:30 - Colorado History Museum Presentation of other design proposals - December 6, 5:30 - 7:30 - Colorado History Museum

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dennis Smith- Parks and Rec advisory board member

Civic Center Park has an image problem. Law abiding and tax paying men, women, and families avoid the park because of the abundance of hobos, tramps, drug dealers, runaways, and assorted odd balls. It is not for lack of amenities, fountains, reflecting ponds and 21st century interactive multimedia components that Denver's premier downtown park is viewed by many as undesirable and unsafe to visit. The unsavory fact is Civic Center Park is dominated by sketchy characters. Bad and illegal behavior has crowded out wholesome, responsible behavior. Fortunately for Denverites the reverse is true, good and responsible behavior drives out bad behavior. Taxpayers and visitors will return when they feel safe. Denver Police Department's "broken windows" policing strategy, where minor infractions are quickly investigated and their perpetrators questioned and arrested, should be implemented right outside the mayor's office window in Civic Center Park. New York's Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the notorious Times Square with a healthy, sustained dose of broken windows law enforcement. Denver can and should do the same with Civic Center Park. Fixing Civic Center Park does not require a multimillion dollar expenditure. However, physical change to the park seems inevitable.

Transforming Civic Center Park should reflect the will of the people of Denver. As a member of the Denver Parks & Recreation Department 's Advisory Board, I am delighted that there is a movement afoot by the nascent Civic Center Conservancy to enhance Civic Center Park. Unlike neighborhood parks (Sloans, City, Washington, for example) , Civic Center lacks the engaged stakeholders that live in close proximity to the park and utilize its amenities. Furthermore, Civic Center park is a grown-up's park, lacking swing sets, tennis courts, ball fields, or the other attributes that bring patrons of all ages to a park. Thus the participation of the Civic Center Conservancy in funding improvements to the park, promoting its greater use, and soliciting ideas for its renovation is welcome . However, I would ask that the Conservancy pay special attention to the Civic Center master plan, completed in 2005. The master plan reflects the wishes of the citizens of Denver. It reflects their good taste, their sense of tradition, and their interest in preserving civic history. The plan included numerous surveys and public hearings, and took months to complete. It was widely publicized process, requested citizen input, and was entirely transparent.

Finally, I suggest that the Civic Center Conservancy look not to Chicago and its $500 million (no kidding) Millennium Park for inspiration for the changes to Civic Center. Rather, continue east to NYC's Bryant Park. What was once a haven for drug dealers, drug purchasers, sleepy transients, and assorted lawbreakers is now a dynamic downtown park that is beautiful, safe, and frequented by all. Bryant Park's website claims "A seven-year push combined supplementary park maintenance, temporary kiosks, and public events ranging from historical park tours to concerts, which reduced crime by 92 percent and doubled the number of annual park visitors." Denver deserves no less.

Dennis Smith
Denver South High School
member Denver Parks Department's Advisory Board District #7

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Report of the october 10th meeting

Report on the October 10th session to the Denver Parks and Recreation Advisory Board

Helen Kuykendall, Parks and Rec manager for the Civic Center project led the meeting. Members of the Parks and Rec advisory board, representing all of the City Council districts and mayoral appointees introduced themselves. Because the meeting was their monthly meeting, they discussed other parks project of interest as well as the Civic Center plans. Dennis Smith, representing District 7 asked the only question about the project, “Will the Civic Center Conservancy provide funds for the park even if the Libeskind plan is rejected?”

Unfortunately, no one from the Conservancy answered the question. The Chairman of the Advisory board announced that “no decision has been made about the plan”, and he wanted to make that clear to the audience.

The room was nearly filled and every person wanting to comment had an opportunity. The overwhelming majority of those who spoke were against the project. Three people spoke in favor of the Libeskind design. One felt it successfully implemented the recent Civic Center Master Plan; one admired the sculptural aspects of the design.

Two announcements were made concerning additional meetings: The Park People meeting on November 15 (though the location is still not confirmed - check our blog and we will post it as soon as we know). Dennis Humphries from the Civic Center Conservancy announced that on December 6th there will be a display of 8 new ideas/plans for Civic Center submitted to the Conservancy (5 of these ideas were printed in the Rocky Mountain News recently). The display will be at the Colorado History Museum.

Helen Kuykendall followed the procedures from previous meetings. There seems to be no recording of the meetings other than the synopsis of the audience comments she writes on a flip chart.

The comments we heard included:

A discussion about the “derivative” nature of Daniel Libeskind’s design by an architect/engineer who also flatly stated the bridge was “ unbuildable” and would have to be much heavier. He provided some photos of Calatrava bridges to make his point about the derivative nature of the design.

Others spoke about their desire to see the park restored and more elements of the original 1917 design built. As with other meetings, the love and respect that audience members feel for Civic Center Park is palpable.

An artist in the audience said she felt that the process was a sham and she believed they would go ahead no matter what the public felt. Helen Kuykendall said that was not the case, but the artist said she felt it very strongly, no matter what the “official” word was.

Carolyn Etter, former Co-Manager of Parks and Recreation, reminded the Advisory Board that there are very clear procedures laid out in their manuals for new park construction and she urged the board members to read and follow them.

Others mentioned activities that could activate the park, without building new structures that overwhelm the park. The inappropriateness of water features in our frequent drought cycles was brought up. One individual pointed out that drinking fountains don’t work in any park and the Department would be better off trying to fix what they have rather than making plans for improvements that would cost a lot to maintain.

Perhaps the most eloquent statement came from an individual who works for the city but was speaking as a citizen, not as a representative of the department or the city. He spoke of walking through the park daily and enjoying the views and surroundings. He mentioned the current exhibit of the American Friends Service committee of boots representing those who died in Iraq. He pointed out that the “civic” nature of the space allowed for this kind of exhibits and how important that was. The park functions as a civic space for the city and the state, and filling the space with new objects and structures will lessen opportunities for civic gatherings and expressions.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Historian Tom Noel's comments on the new plan for Civic Center appeared in the September 9th, edition of the Rocky Mountain News.
Noel: Avoid Civic Center gimmickry

Tom Noel
Remember the first time you saw Civic Center? While most cities have a discordant jumble of buildings, billboards and parking lots at their heart, Denver had a serene, green, dreamy neoclassical park. Its dignity, tranquility, symmetry and low-rise scale put the whole city into pleasing perspective.

Now, Denver seems intent to squander millions burying Civic Center with every gimmick and architectural cliché Daniel Libeskind can pull out of his bag of tricks. Rocky Mountain News architecture critic Mary Voelz Chandler recently cautioned local boosters about the plethora of ideas offered.

Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin, one leading commentator has noted, has reason to look tortured. But that doesn't seem appropriate for Civic Center. It should be respected, not smothered under spiraling aerial walkways, look-at-me 72-foot-high towers and other architectural acrobatics. If you like Libeskind's dizziness, consider Elitch Gardens. It is on the market and already compatible with his Civic Center roller-coaster ride.

Before trashing Denver's City Beautiful tradition, the powers-that-be should take a closer, calmer look at what this city will be losing. One tool for doing this is a new book by Fran Pierson, Getting to Know Denver. This well-illustrated paperback scrutinizes downtown structures.

Pierson, a Denver native, has been mapping, photographing and studying the cityscape for decades. He founded the Pierson Map Company in 1979. It produced the most comprehensive maps of Colorado. Pierson sold out in 1994 to what is now Mapsco at 800 Lincoln St., still Denver's best map store.

He teaches and performs music and is coordinator of classical and Latin services at Holy Ghost Catholic Church, which gets a high ranking in his book.

Pierson's guide rates downtown Denver's top 100 buildings on a scale of 1 to 10, making his book a terrific way to start spirited discussion. Pierson sees merit in modernism. He gives Jan and Frederick Mayer's 1998 postmodern residence-museum on Wazee Street his second-highest rating - after the U.S. Post office at 1823 Stout St. (now the Byron White Federal Courthouse).

"Civic Center Park," Pierson writes, "is probably the crowning achievement of Denver's far-sighted and effective mayor Robert W. Speer."

"Does Denver really want to ape Las Vegas by carnivalizing Civic Center?" Pierson asked recently.

The city's current Civic Center consolidates the best in plans provided by America's foremost landscape architect, Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr.; Edward H. Bennett, of Chicago's World's Fair fame; leading local architects William A. and Arthur A. Fisher, Burnham Hoyt, Willis A. Marean and Albert J. Norton, and the great Denver planner and landscape architect Saco R. DeBoer.

The Civic Center they created used to be protected by its designation as a historic district by both Denver and the National Register of Historic Places. The Denver Landmark Preservation Commission, as in the case of the 37-story tower in the Lower Downtown District, is once again being bypassed in a development-bedeviled city.

If Libeskind is to be unleashed, let it be in one of the city's neglected parks suffering from the multimillion-dollar backlog in parks maintenance, not in redoing the crowning achievement of the City Beautiful era. Perhaps the most amazing part of the Libeskind proposal is the notion that it will scare the homeless, along with some of the rest of us, out of Civic Center.

Denver has many landmarks, more than 320 city-designated individual structures and 46 historic districts, set aside for preservation. Let each generation focus on constructing its own landmarks, such as Libeskind's new Denver Art Museum wing, not on costuming timeless treasures with the latest architectural fads.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who we are

Martha Bennett, FAIA is an architect and partner of Bennett, Wagner & Grody Architects, Denver. She is past president of the Denver chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Ginny Du Brucq, AIA is an architect and designer in Denver. She is a board member of the Denver Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Ruth Falkenberg is a life-long Denverite; worked in all aspects of real estate (development, management, financing, construction); former member and chair of Planning Board and Landmark Preservation Commission.

Christine Ford
, a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Denver, is a former editor of The Urban Design Forum and Historic Denver News, and past director of the Colorado Heritage Area Partnership.

Patricia O'Leary
is an architect and a full-time educator.

Nan O'Neal
is a Denver-based writer. She is the former editor of the Historic Denver News and a member of the Denver Womens’ Press Club.

Lisa Purdy
is a historic preservation consultant who has been active in urban design and preservation for 30 years, both locally and nationally. She has developed inner-city properties, was on the board and staff of Historic Denver and The Downtown Denver Partnership, and was a leader in the formation of the LoDo historic district. Ms. Purdy served on the 1984 Downtown Area Plan Committee and won a one-year fellowship to Harvard University in 1996

Roz Schneider
is a principal of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture. . She was a commissioner on the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission for nine years. She is currently a Trustee on the Colorado Historical Foundation.

Katharine Smith-Warren
is an art curator and advisor who has worked on public sculpture and art installations in Colorado for over 20 years. She has published numerous articles on art and architecture and created exhibitions for museums and art centers.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mary Voelz Chandler's Analysis

Rocky Mountain News columnist Mary Voelz Chandler has been following the Civic Center Park process from the beginning. For incisive analysis about the potential problems the current process may present, take a moment to peruse this series of columns.

September 1: Civic Center plan crowded with details

"Then, there is the reaction. Considering all the speculation and concern in the community over what was really going on in the conservancy's planning process, the response was, well, somewhat quiet. Perhaps there was such relief that it wasn't even more dramatic, that some people weren't sure how to respond. After all, everyone was looking for that elusive 'wow' factor, and I didn't hear any wows."

July 22: Civic Center's creative storm building
June 10: Civic Center plans deserve community input
May 20: A forum for big ideas

Letter from Historic Denver published in the Rocky Mountain News

Here is a letter from Historic Denver that was published in the Rocky Mountain News.

September 6, 2006

Re: Putting the Civic back in Civic Center

Last week New York architect Daniel Libeskind unveiled his vision for Civic Center at a town hall meeting at Denver’s Convention Center. Over 700 people patiently awaited the long delayed public presentation of what has become one of Denver’s worst kept secrets: an audacious plan which would drastically overhaul our City Beautiful era park and gathering place. Citing a recently approved Master Plan for Civic Center prepared by Mundus Bishop, the noted designer said his first priority would be the retention and preservation of all the park’s historic elements. However, they would be overlaid by a new skewed axis and multiple elements intended to solve the stated problem: lack of Wow.

The response has been tepid at best. Few if any wows were heard from the audience, although the panelists were determinedly upbeat in their support of the 40 million dollar plus proposal. No wonder: An extraordinary Memorandum of Agreement between the new private non-profit Civic Center Conservancy and the City takes the review and approval of Libeskind’s plan away from the Landmark Commission and City Council and places it solely with the Mayor’s appointed Parks and Recreation Director Kim Bailey. Though the public and their representatives may observe and comment, Ms. Bailey, as it stands now, will make the final decision.

It is a perfect time to focus on Denver’s most beloved landscape. As Mayor Hickenlooper pointed out in his introduction, the City will celebrate its 150th birthday in 2008. What better year to unveil a revitalized City Center? It is shabby and sometimes littered; it is hard to reach; it is too empty; and it lacks the security that a regular bike and horse patrol could provide. But these problems are the result of neglect, not of a flaw in the original concept and implementation of the serene and beautiful 1918 Beaux Arts plan. If the Park’s wonderful original Carnegie library, the City’s McNichols Building, were to be converted to a public use and restaurant, a great step forward could be taken to attract new investment and life to the park. If the crossing across Colfax were improved in any number of ways, including a longer pause at traffic signals, City and newspaper employees just across the street could easily enjoy the Park at noon. Others would follow, finding it easier to get to the park and surrounding museum district from the 16th Street Mall and Lower Downtown.

The process now beginning must be more than a series of public meetings to approve what has just been presented. The Landmark Commission should be allowed to determine whether or not the proposed plan is one that protects the integrity of this Denver Landmark and National Register historic district, rather than simply being “briefed” by the Parks Department. City Council members, our elected representatives and stewards of the City’s resources, should approve any such changes. Let’s give Civic Center the attention it deserves by supporting its preservation through a publicly supported bond issue and privately supported donations. Its future should not be determined by outside experts, no matter how prestigious, nor should its fate be left to an inside unilateral decision by Ms. Bailey and the Conservancy, no matter how audacious the vision. The people of Denver are the real experts on the use and enjoyment of Civic Center. A partnership that truly includes the public would be a great start.

Kathleen Brooker
Historic Denver, Inc.