Ken Schroeppel's DenverInfill blog keeps a close eye on the city's growth and development
Ever wonder what the plans are for a construction site that has popped up at the end of your block? Have you been curious about a new face being put on an old building downtown? For close to a decade, Ken Schroeppel has been answering these questions, documenting Denver's development progress through his blog DenverInfill and its companion, DenverUrbanism.
Ryan Dravitz for DenverInFill. A city in transition: Ryan Dravitz of the DenverInfill team takes many of the site's recent shots.
By day, he's an urban planner and professor of architecture and planning at the University of Colorado Denver -- but in his free time, Schroeppel and his team of contributors connect with developers, architects and an array of folks in the construction field to create a detailed database of the city's current and upcoming construction projects.
Westword spoke with Schroeppel about his long-running DenverInfill blog, how he collects his information on new buildings and the role of preservation within the development of Denver.
Westword: When you go to create a post on DenverInfill about a new development, where and how do you go about gathering information? Do you have specific sources? Do you do have a way you go about researching specific locations or parts of town?
Ryan Dravitz for DenverInfill. A new apartment building going up in the Ballpark neighborhood.
Ken Schroeppel: It's hard to explain -- all of the above, I guess. In other words, there is no limit to the sources. It's obvious things like going past a place and seeing a chain-link fence up around with a sign on it. It's also just reading about it, sometimes for the first time, in one of the other media outlets -- sometimes the Denver Post or the Denver Business Journal scoops me. But the majority of it comes through online research -- I look at property records, sale records, information that would be posted on the city's website in regards to development applications with the planning office.
Architects and architectural firms will often put information on their websites as part of their portfolio or gallery of images. Then, over the years because I am so integrated and really intimately involved with downtown development and the downtown community -- the planning, design and development community -- I've established a really neat network of people that I know. I might be chatting with someone and they will give me information, then a week later, I'm talking to someone else and they will share information about what firms have picked up contracts for areas of town, stuff like that.
When two independent sources kind of tell me the same thing, I will then contact someone over at that particular firm and see what is going on at a specific site. It's kind of like doing some detective work and piecing together information. One thing I would say though is that I take the confidentiality of people tell me with absolute seriousness. There are probably a dozen or more projects that I'm aware of right now but I have not put on the blog, simply because the time isn't right yet. The developer has asked to wait until they are at a certain point in the project where they feel comfortable for the information to be made public.
Ryan Dravitz for DenverInfill. A Riverfront Park development set to open this fall.
It's a balance -- I don't like it when the Post of the Business Journal beats me to reporting on a project for the first time, particularly if it is one that I have known about for a long time because I've been waiting for the right time. So it is hard to gauge when is the right time, unless the developer is very explicit on a date.
Is there any trend or anything happening in the development of Denver as of late that you find particularly interesting?
Well, I find it all interesting and the thing is, I am a planner and an urbanist. So to me, I don't consider DenverInfill to be a real estate development site; I consider it a city building site. I have a much broader perspective -- to me, all of these projects that I track are small pieces that contribute to a bigger vision. Something that is often called "city building" or developing and enhancing Denver's built environment to make it better and increase the quality of life for people who kind of want to live and work in the downtown area.
Downtown Denver and its immediate surroundings were decimated in the post-war era by the impacts of the automobile. Tearing down buildings and putting in parking lots -- that has really tattered the urban fabric of the downtown area. So, if you look at all the great cities in the country and all over the world, they all have very intact urban fabrics; you don't find people traveling to cities to take urban vacations to places where the urban core is scattered with surface parking lots. It is an interesting thing.