Dixie Darr

In creativity, Home on May 14, 2007 at 3:02 pm

An “Urban” Suburb

“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.” Dee Hock

I had my Artist Date last Friday at the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood, a suburb south of Denver. I’ll tell you more about the exhibit in a later post. Here I want to talk about the Englewood City Center, where the museum is located. Yet another example of the New Urbanism that attempts to create a mixed-use “vibrant downtown core” feeling in the middle of a sprawling beige suburb, it showed promise when I drove into a small park displaying sculptures and a fountain.

Maybe I should mention up front that I always feel like an illegal alien on the planet suburbia.

City Hall stood on one side of the park, across from a three-story building with offices, many of them still vacant, on the ground level and apartments above. The block leading down to the park is the same, with a few restaurants, a coffee shop and a bead shop among the law and insurance and architecture offices with apartments above. At the end of that block is a HUGE Wal-Mart store, looming like the mother ship.

I like the concept of putting housing, retail and office units together, but this seemed a little sterile to me. Of course it’s new and still half empty, so that will change, but here’s the thing: I wouldn’t want to live next door to a Wall-Mart. Those people who “camp” in RVs in Wal-Mart parking lots might disagree with me.

The whole time I was there, I saw a total of about a dozen people around, unlike the neighborhood business districts near me, which these new downtowns are trying to emulate and which always seem to be crammed with people drinking coffee, talking on their phones, pushing strollers and walking their dogs.

I’m not sure what the problem was. Maybe it will just take time for the place to develop some character and personality. Or maybe they need more variety of housing—single family houses, town homes and lofts in addition to the cookie-cutter apartments. Or maybe downtowns only work, well, downtown. I know I was happy to get back home to my little urban village of North Denver.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved


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