Strange bedfellows? Developers, environmentalists join hands |

Strange bedfellows? Developers, environmentalists join hands

DENVER ” Once adversaries, some developers and environmentalists are joining together to promote a new wave of high-density urban growth.

Denver-area home builders and office developers are working with former opponents in the environmentalist movement to create a group called Colorado Tomorrow Alliance.

The effort aims to create high-density developments along commuter rail lines and other public transportation routes into Denver. The goal is to replace sprawling subdivisions with lower-impact projects in already urbanized areas.

Elise Jones, director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said both sides were encouraged after working together on the city’s $4.7 billion transit plan called Fastracks that was approved by voters in 2004.

Success breeds success,” Jones said. “We said ‘what else can we do together?”‘

Developers say they’re seeing a real market for townhouses and condos clustered around public transportation hubs, an alternative to suburban sprawl, more roads and gridlock that characterizes cities from Los Angeles to Tampa, Fla.

“We’re looking at new ways to do things,” said Jeff Willis, president of the Home Builders of Metro Denver. “Everybody wants to see Colorado continue to be a great place to live … There’s a demand for higher density, downtown living.”

As a range of players, from the developers to environmentalist, work in Colorado Tomorrow to adjust zoning regulations and make it easier for commuters to live without cars, it’s a far cry from the development battles just seven years ago.

Back in 2000, developers battled activists over growth. Environmentalists back then pushed a ballot initiative that would have limited how and where cities could grow.

Developers spent millions defeating the measure.

With Colorado Tomorrow, those involved say they’ve found a new way to cooperate with the common goal of preserving Colorado’s quality of life.

The group says it will officially go public in May with outreach programs and public awareness campaigns.

“It’s a big experiment,” said Marilee Utter, chairwoman of the Urban Land Institute of Colorado. “This was a way to learn the lessons of regionalism and say what should we do to address growth in our communities.”

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