Published: Sept. 19, 2018

Community members planting trees and a butterfly garden in Dunham Park (Elyria-Swansea)  in June 2018.

Community members planting trees and a butterfly garden in Dunham Park (Elyria-Swansea) in June.

Empowering neighborhoods through tree plantings and pop-up design are just a few topics to be covered at a university conference focusing on building resilient and innovative communities. 

On Friday, Oct. 19, local experts will discuss sustainability, creative industries, green infrastructure and citizen and youth engagement in city design at the second annual Community Building Colorado-Style conference. The event, which is sponsored by CU Boulder's Community Engagement, Design and Research (CEDaR) Center, The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and Downtown Colorado Inc. is open to the community, and registration is required. CEDaR is a collaborative of faculty and students that works with cities and other local partners to build vital, equitable and sustainable communities; CNU is an international nonprofit organization that works to build vibrant and well-designed communities.

During the conference, faculty and student work, as well as the work of many others involved in community engagement, will be presented, says Brian Muller, CEDaR director and associate professor in the Program in Environmental Design.

"The conference is an opportunity to develop new partnerships between the university and cities, as well as to address the changing needs of Colorado communities," he says.

Conference topics include Denver's green roof ordinance, children and youth in community engagement, and green and affordable sustainable communties.  Workshops linked to the conference are also being held that week on creative districts and mobile home/manufactured housing communities.

Christopher Hawkins, an urban conservation program manager with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), will discuss the community-led, block-scale tree planting initiative in North Central Denver’s Globeville, Elyria-Swansea (GES) neighborhoods, which are located by the highway and plagued by environmental risks. The inclusive model allows residents to drive the agenda, he says.  

“This is not an organization coming in and dropping off a bunch of trees,” Hawkins says. “It’s part of the community’s vision for itself.”  

Hawkins says the model, which involves the Conservancy, the GES – Coalition, a community-based organization, and the nonprofit The Park People (TPP), allows the organizations to learn about neighborhood issues on a block scale and to "work deeply” with block leaders, who encourage residents to also engage in the project.  

In another presentation, Ken Snyder, programming director of Radian, will discuss his nonprofit’s work utilizing pop-up design and temporary installments to help Denver-area and rural Colorado communities visualize ways to enhance their community’s public spaces with areas that encourage biking or walking and connect people with nature.  

The architecture and urban design organization focuses on increasing social equity within communities by working with residents and local stakeholders to carry out their neighborhood visions. Utilizing the “Tiny Wonderful,” a trailer equipped with pop-up design materials, landscapes are transformed from a day to a month: parking spaces become sidewalk cafes, roads expand to include protected bike lanes and playgrounds are added.  

“Pop up design is a great technique for civic engagement and experimenting with the design of streets and public spaces,” Snyder says. “It brings people into the discussion who would normally not be part of it. It also helps communities experiment with things that would be costly to install more permanently.”  

For example, a few years ago Boulder residents reacted to a new bike lane constructed on Folsom Avenue, and as a result, costly modifications were later made. 

“With pop-up design, you can experiment ahead of time and get a sense of what works and what doesn’t work,” he says. 

West COlfax neighborhood

Residents in the West Colfax neighborhood of Denver enjoy pop-up features that reduce four lanes of traffic down to two lanes with pedestrian islands, colored crosswalks, bike lanes and pedestrian friendly landscaping during a street festival on Aug. 16, 2018. Photo credit: Jeremy Snyder, Radian


Community Building Colorado-Style is supported by CU Boulder's Office for Outreach and Engagement, the Program in Environmental Design, Colorado Municipal League and the Research & Innovation Office. For more information about the conference, contact Susan at

If you go

Who: Local government and nonprofit staff, planners and designers, faculty and researchers, students and many others.

What: Community Building Colorado-Style Conference

Where: SEEC Building, 4001 Discovery Dr., Boulder

When: Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: Conference registration is $30 and includes lunch, beverages and snacks; Scholarships are available for students, but students must pre-register to attend. 

Reception: Oct. 18, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Reception and networking opportunity celebrating the restoration of the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. Network with conference attendees and speakers and see the work of the artisan, a visiting CEDaR scholar from Tajikistan, who is working with ENVD and CEDaR interns and students to restore the inside and outside of this beautiful and popular Boulder landmark. Registration is $15 and includes appetizers, desserts, coffee, tea and soft drinks, and a cash bar will be available. Everyone is welcome, but registration is required. Sponsored by the Community Engagement, Design and Research Center (CEDaR).

Workshops will also be held on creative districts and manufactured housing. Contact the conference organizer for more information.

Conference agenda
Hotel Information