The Future of Denver? CU Denver Experts to Weigh In at 5280 Thought Forum

The Future of Denver? CU Denver Experts to Weigh In at 5280 Thought Forum

April 4, 2023

Climate change and health equity. Urban design and sustainability. Affordable housing and human development. These are just some of the pressing issues that Denver—one of the fastest growing cities in the country—is facing. And these are topics that CU Denver’s faculty focus on every day through their research and teaching.  

On April 11, a few of those faculty members will participate in the first-ever 5280 Thought Forum, a thinktank for Denver’s most innovative and creative people to discuss the Mile High City. Hosted by 5280 magazine and CU Denver, the event will feature three panels on the future of downtown, living in the city, and outdoor recreation.  

As Colorado’s only public urban research institution, and with the state’s only urban planning program in its College of Architecture and Planning, CU Denver helps develop deep expertise in urbanism and city living. Learn more about the 5280 Thought Forum panelists from CU Denver below.  

Brian Buma 

PhD, Associate Professor and Biology Graduate Program Director in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Senior Climate Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) 

Buma, who has been with CU Denver since 2018, specializes in quantitative ecology and biology, remote sensing geographic information systems (GIS), field ecology, and temporal and spatial modeling. “I’m interested in the processes that control climate warming and then biophysical feedback to climate warming,” Buma said. “What that means is the ways in which ecosystems respond to what we’re doing to the atmosphere, but also the ways in which they shape it because it’s a two-way street.” Much of Buma’s research in CU Denver’s Biology Graduate Program, including his work studying wildfires, deals with ecosystem resilience post-disturbance, and how, at a fundamental level, our environment reacts to disturbances.  

On the Future of Denver: “We’ve got some significant issues related to water, especially going into the future related to our relationship with fires and our relationship with climate change. This is a place that historically has had a lot of fires and has had a lot of water stress. And those are two things that we’re not good at dealing with as a society—but we can be, if we want to be.”  

Quick Take: “Denver is an amazingly vibrant city and it’s growing extremely rapidly. I think people live here for a reason. It’s a wonderful place to live. But as a result, we have a lot of challenges in terms of managing that growth.”

Carrie Makarewicz 

PhD, Associate Professor and Department Chair of the Urban and Regional Planning Department

Makarewicz looks at how public infrastructure, private development, and public policies interact to affect human development and well-being through jobs access, neighborhood vitality, housing affordability, health equity, regional opportunities, and environmental quality. She joined CU Denver in 2013 and has studied active transportation and transit-oriented development, regional planning for affordable housing, and post-disaster affordable housing recovery, including for manufactured housing parks. “I used mixed methods, integrating large data sets, geospatial mapping, and in-depth interviews with individuals, policymakers, and public and private sector professionals,” said Makarewicz.

On the Future of Denver: “The continual growth in inequality has come to a head. To solve this, Denver and its neighbors must act regionally; the city cannot solve our challenges alone….it is part of regional housing and job markets, and at the nexus of our region’s transportation system and major employment centers. It is affected by state and national policy, the growth management policies and development regulations of other cities and counties, as well as national and global economic forces. Denver also has a very diverse mix of households with different needs that need to be met through interdisciplinary cross-agency approaches.” 

Quick Take: “We need significant amounts of affordable housing, including deeply affordable homes for families and individuals, in the urban core, accompanied with other amenities, including parks, youth activities, and adult learning opportunities.” 

Jeremy Németh 

PhD, Professor and Director of the PhD Program in Geography, Planning, and Design

Németh joined CU Denver in 2007 at a time when the city and the campus were experiencing transformational change. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s just not another university that has an urban planning program [like this] that is in the heart of the city.’” Németh said. He studies built environments and social equity, and one of his current projects is the Community Collaboration and Research Center (CCRC), which has received funding through CU Denver’s Grand Challenges. CCRC studies climate change and healthy equity by working with teams of community researchers, like several in north Denver neighborhoods looking to measure air pollution.

On The Future of Denver: “When we start to think about the future of the city, we have to ask the question: ‘For whom?’…And I think we need to say what is the our legacy? How are we going to be thinking about Denver in 10, 15, 20, 50 years? And we can look back at this point in our history and ask, ‘What could we have done differently to make this a city that’s more inclusive, a city for all.’” 

Quick Take: “The secret is out and [Denver] is really a pretty special place to live—if you can afford to live here.” 

Ken Schroeppel 

Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Director of Urban Design

Schroeppel’s work at CU Denver in the Urban Design and Urban and Regional Planning programs emphasizes land use and transportation, urban design and development, urban form, and the history of cities. While he manages the urban design programs and initiatives at CU Denver, he is also actively engaged with Denver’s urban design community. “I frequently give presentations and walking tours of urban design and development to organizations and agencies from throughout Colorado and the U.S.,” said Schroeppel. He is a passionate urbanist, urban planner, and community activist with a detailed understanding of the history of Denver. Schroeppel is also well known as the founder and editor of the popular DenverInfill blog, which offers news and information about urban infill development in the Mile High City.

On the Future of Denver: “I think Denver should expand housing supply, accessibility, and affordability in all Denver neighborhoods through land use policy and zoning reforms. By redesigning its streets and eliminating parking minimums and establishing parking maximums for all new developments, the city should better prioritize people walking, biking, and using transit.” 

Quick Take: “[We need] a lot more housing of all types and sizes, and fewer cars and parking spaces.” 

Paul Teske 

PhD, Dean and Distinguished Professor, School of Public Affairs; Member of CU Denver’s 50th Anniversary Committee that planned the 5280 event

Teske’s extensive knowledge of public affairs ensures that he’s a sought-after expert on everything from local politics to national trends. As Dean of CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs, he has advised the state’s Department of Regulatory Affairs on the regulation of professions and served as a member of the Denver Public Schools’ School Improvement Grant Committee. “I, personally, am very interested in urban issues and have studied economic development,” said Teske. He often serves on state-wide planning projects and is currently the academic partner for the CiviCO Colorado Governors Fellowship program, a bipartisan partnership that aims to elevate the brand and quality of government through preparing qualified leaders in the private and public sectors. 

On the Future of Denver: “It may be an overused term now, but I feel like ‘inflection point’ is a good way to think about where we’re at. Partly, with the election, and we’ll have a new mayor for the first time in 12 years, we may have a somewhat different city council. Mayors in Denver tend to last more than one term. So, they might be in for eight or 12 years. And that person will have a big impact.” 

Quick Take: “I think [elected officials] just have to make downtown more attractive again and give people reasons to come. I think human beings like to hang out with other human beings.” 

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