In city planning, 'love notes to Littleton' recommended

Consultant says emotional connection to city important in visioning process

Posted 9/16/19

Peter Kageyama wants elected officials, city staff and residents to write “love notes” to Littleton. But not in the literal sense. And his urgings weren't just for a feel-good time: He wants that …

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In city planning, 'love notes to Littleton' recommended

Consultant says emotional connection to city important in visioning process

Posted

Peter Kageyama wants elected officials, city staff and residents to write “love notes” to Littleton.

But not in the literal sense. And his urgings weren't just for a feel-good time: He wants that spirit to run through the city's roadmap for the next couple decades.

“The goal should be creating a lovable city,” Kageyama said. The “kind that grabs you by the heart and refuses to let go.”

The writer and consultant who focuses on city planning and development spoke to an audience of Littleton residents and city councilmembers at Arapahoe Community College on Sept. 12.

Kageyama's was the fourth and final event in a speaker series for Envision Littleton — a long-term process to set priorities that will guide future efforts to revise city zoning and other policy. A city's zoning sets rules for what can be built where.

The Envision process sought public feedback on two documents that will shape Littleton's development and growth for decades to come: the city's revised comprehensive plan and its first-ever Transportation Master Plan. City officials unveiled the drafts in mid-August. The city's current comprehensive plan was ratified in 1981 and last updated in 2000.

The plans lay out policies and actions for various aspects of civic life, including housing, infrastructure, recreation, transportation and business.

But amid all those complicated building blocks of a city, Kageyama implored Littleton to wonder: Why can't cities be more lively, more fun, more lovable?

“Love notes are these things cities will give to their residents,” said Kageyama, who is a senior fellow with the Alliance for Innovation, a national network of city leaders dedicated to improving local government.

His examples of love notes: New York City remaking traffic-clogged Times Square as a pedestrian-friendly plaza, Boston creating “an adult playground” in the Lawn On D and Denver putting up a “Big Blue Bear” that peers into downtown's Colorado Convention Center.

The projects can be an expensive use of taxpayer money, Kageyama said, but they pay their worth in a more intangible way.

“Do you know how many potholes we could fix for the cost of that bear?” Kageyama said. “But in addition to having a cost, the bear also has a value.”

Memorable places and events can create buzz and boost the flow of money into a city, Kageyama argued.

“Let's talk about the cost of ugly; let's talk about the cost of boring,” Kageyama said. He bets those who might balk “haven't thought about it in those terms.”

And turning less-interesting spaces around can be cheap — it just takes collaborating with artists and other citizens who can think out of the box, he argued. Projects such as murals, scavenger hunts and hidden messages could be part of it, Kageyama said.

On a bigger scale, the writer suggested, Littleton could make changes by making its downtown less car-centric.

“You have a lovely downtown. The scale of it seems very human,” said Kageyama, adding that it feels authentic. “Sadly, it's sort of lost among all the traffic … You've got to get people to slow down and get out of their cars. You've got the hard part done: You've got a lot of interesting stuff going on.”

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