St. Stephen’s Plaza in downtown Longmont is located on a historical main street that has been struggling economically in a rapidly growing region. It includes small businesses ranging from shoe stores to bars and restaurants and is at the center of a gentrifying but predominantly working-class Latinx neighborhood. 

Over the past two years, CEDaR has partnered with the city and CU Boulder faculty and students to conduct planning and design research and a survey of neighborhood attitudes, leading to a proposal for the redesign of St. Stephens Plaza. The project is a landscape design supporting pedestrian circulation and a space for relaxation and reflection. Jesse VanHorn, landscape architect and instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder, managed student work on this project. 

St. Stephen’s Plaza redesign includes sculpture, landscaping and paving surrounding a historical church. The project will improve business outcomes by generating excitement about its historic downtown, drawing in customers and creating patterns of connectivity that will improve access to businesses in nearby downtown areas in Longmont. The project involves the development of beautiful structures with functional and artistic dimensions. Improvements to social relationships include bringing more voices to planning and design discussion, including voices from vulnerable communities. In addition, participation in successful design processes will lead to social outcomes including confidence, a sense of community efficacy and neighborhood identity. Finally, the creation of a program and new partnerships that can replicate these experiences across Colorado will broaden support for placemaking in the state. 

Our work in Longmont relies on multi-layered partnerships and engagements that typify the Community Design Workshop process. At the highest level, we established a memorandum of understanding between the university provost and city leadership. We then developed a neighborhood assessment process framed around principles of an economically healthy and socially integrated community. Next we worked with tools that bring together CU Boulder students and community members in various forms of reflection, including design exercises, surveys, focus groups, structured engagements with children, youth and other target populations, internships, design studios, seminars and theses. Finally, we have built progressively through multiple engagements to identify a project idea and develop concepts. In the next stage these will lead to implementation documents and fabrication or performance of an installation or event.

For St. Stephens Plaza, the primary partner is the Longmont Downtown Development Authority (LDDA), created in 1982 with a mandate to revitalize the city’s downtown commercial core. Its purpose is to develop, support and promote a vital and valuable downtown Longmont and make the downtown area  appealing to businesses, residents and visitors. The LDDA encompasses 242 acres, spanning 1st Avenue to Longs Peak and Martin Street to Terry Street. Since 1982, more than $180 million in public and private funds has been invested in new and renovated buildings in the Longmont Downtown District. Goals and strategies are outlined in the LDDA Master Plan of Development.

Primary partners have shared responsibility for most aspects of project implementation. The LDDA is a full partner, doing approval of designs and construction documents and shared oversight of designers and others involved in the project. The authority will coordinate on-site arrangements necessary for completion of the project, including obtaining necessary permits from the city and other entities and coordinating with owners of adjoining properties. The LDDA will make capital funding available for the project as necessary, entering contractual arrangements such as with the University of Colorado Boulder and others. The LDDA will collaborate with CEDaR and the University of Colorado Boulder to implement community engagement events, including community-wide meetings and presentations to the LDDA board and other entities.  

Planned Schedule 

(Some uncertainties associated with COVID-19.) 

Fall 2018–Spring 2021.
Research and conceptual designs for St. Stephen’s Plaza were developed and reviewed in community events. 

Summer/Fall 2021
Preparation and distribution of RFP for site selection by project advisory committee.

Summer 2021
Final document preparation and submittal to the LDDA board and community for further review and approval. 

Summer/Fall 2021–Spring 2022
Installations for St. Stephen’s Plaza will be fabricated and constructed by students working with professionals, as required.