September 2016: MURP News and Faculty Updates

MURP faculty are busy serving the planning profession, the community and our students through their leadership and participation in publications, presentations and media stories.

Notable Activities in September 2016 Include:

Jeremy Németh, associate professor of urban and regional planning, published an article with CAP alumnus Alessandro Rigolon (PhD Design and Planning 2015), who is now an assistant professor of urban studies and planning at California State University, Northridge. “QUality INdex of Parks for Youth (QUINPY): Evaluating urban parks through geographic information systems,” which appears in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, found that visiting urban parks can provide significant physical and mental health benefits for children and teenagers, but that these benefits are tempered by park quality, amenities, maintenance and safety.

While several tools exist for measuring park quality, very few focus specifically on what attracts young people to parks, and none rely on easily-accessed, publicly-available geospatial data. As such, Németh and Rigolon developed and pilot tested such a tool in Denver and New York City. The QUality INdex of Parks for Youth (QUINPY) can be used by park agencies, planning consultants, researchers and nonprofits, and is a particularly promising advance that takes advantage of the increasing amount of publicly-available geospatial data.

Jeremy Németh, associate professor of urban and regional planning, was also interviewed for a September 21, 2016 article in the Colorado Springs Independent entitled, “Why Is Private Security Patrolling Our Public Streets?”. The article—which discusses the increased use of private security companies guarding public spaces in Colorado Springs, Denver and Manitou Springs on behalf of private interests, such as public-private partnerships—spoke to Németh, a local expert on public space and urban politics, about the trend.

In the article, Németh discusses how with the increased use of security in public spaces, tension will inevitably arise. He also expresses concern that in this more privatized environment, a person’s identity, defined through racial and/or economic profiling, may play a bigger role in security’s decision to intercept, versus the identification of illegal or prohibited behavior. While Németh acknowledges this issue is not limited to private security forces, but may also include police officers or members of citizen watch groups, he relates that increased security in general may be harmful to downtown progression and vitality over time.

Andrew Rumbach, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, co-authored a study appearing in the September 29, 2016 issue of the journal Natural Hazards, Predictors of Household Exposure to Monsoon Rain Hazards in Informal Settlements.” Rumbach and his co-author, Manish Shirgaokar of the University of Alberta, examine household vulnerability to monsoon rains in informal settlements in Kolkata, India.

Ken Schroeppel, assistant professor clinical teaching track of urban and regional planning, was quoted in an article in the October 2016 issue of 5280, “The New (And Improved?) Denver.” The article notes that Denver’s extensive growth has produced intensely differing opinions. Schroeppel provided one viewpoint in response to common complaints about Denver’s changes, saying he disagrees that new architecture is ugly and unimaginative. “Booms reflect the architecture of the day; it’s why our skyline looks so ’80s. In time it won’t matter, because these projects will fade into the background when the next boom comes and become part of the city’s architectural diversity,” Schroeppel said.

The article also sought the divergent opinion of Mark Johnson, adjunct faculty in landscape architecture and president of Civitas Urban Design & Planning, who said, “The design we’ve seen in the past 10 years is not very good, in every city. Formulas are being repeated because of economics. Developers get so much pushback against densification that projects get repeated because they know they can get them approved. It’s dumbing down creativity.”

Austin Troy, department chair and professor of urban and regional planning, was a plenary speaker and workshop leader at the Ecodistricts Research Forum, which took place at the University of Denver on September 15, 2016. Troy gave two talks, one which involved discussing CU Denver’s role in the new, emerging Integrative Research Center, which will focus on urban regeneration in West Denver with other partners such as University of Denver, Colorado State University, Denver Housing Authority and CityCraft.

Troy’s second plenary talk involved presenting the National Science Foundation’s Baltimore Ecosystem Study as a model for integrated urban research. Troy also conducted a workshop at the forum that focused on urban sustainability indicators.