Summer Mountain Studio 2018: Dillon, Colorado

Re-imaging a hidden oasis: Building an innovative and self-sufficient economy in a lakeside mountain community

Revitalizing the downtown core of a hidden lakeside gem

During summer 2018, for the for the first time in the MURP department’s history, the Planning Project Studio integrated an off-campus location in the Rocky Mountains for a part of the studio. Taught by Korkut Onaran, Ph.D., one of the department’s adjunct faculty, the class was a two-month long intensive summer studio. As part of the studio, the class spent two weeks in Dillon, a small mountain community in Summit County approximately 70 miles west of Denver along the shores of the beautiful Dillon Reservoir. Attended by eighteen MURP students, the studio focused on reimagining Dillon and is part of the town’s larger on-going effort to revitalize its downtown core.

Envisioning the future: working towards diversity and self-sufficiency

After writing some initial “first impressions” essays, the class started to focus on background research about Dillon and Summit County including recent planning efforts, demographics, land uses, and history. The identification of planning and design challenges defined the scope of the work. Some of the key challenges identified by the students are Dillon’s seasonality and dependence on summer tourism, its shortage of workforce housing, the fact that it is relatively unknown even to Colorado residents, and the town’s lack of a distinct public realm. As part of the studio, students provided a vision for the future of Dillon and laid out key goals for the city to pursue, including diversifying the local economy, creating a more self-sufficient economy, increasing workforce housing, and working towards more equitable income distribution. The class also identified target areas and industries for the town to focus on such as tech and small businesses, arts/culture/music, the outdoor industry, and culinary enterprises.

On June 29, the class provided a preliminary presentation to Dillon’s city officials, followed by a final presentation on July 13. You can view this final presentation below. A final report produced at the end of the class incorporated the valuable input received during these presentations.

Working for meaningful change while gaining real-world experience

The overall experience was positive for students. Second year MURP student Andrew Williams says, “The Dillon Summer Studio was a great experience to put planning tools and concepts into practice. The studio not only offered incredible views, it also offered a great opportunity to work towards creating meaningful change in an area desperate for housing, development, and a full-time population.”

Another second year MURP student, Stefi Szrek, said, “I used to visit Dillon with my family when I was younger and I thought I knew the area well – but working with my classmates and the town council provided much more insight on the community and area that I didn’t know about. I really enjoyed having the ‘real world’ experience and networking in the Colorado Front Range. This studio helped me to gain experience in planning for rural and tourist communities, which I believe is an important aspect of planning.”

Professor Onaran and the studio class would like to acknowledge the assistance and cooperation of Mayor Carolyn Skowyra, Tom Acre, the Town Manager, Dan Burroughs, Town Engineer and Community Development Director, and Ned West, Town Planner and Engineering Inspector, who each met with the class during the informational welcome session and attended the presentations and provided their valuable input. Professor Onaran and the class would also like to thank Carolyn, Tom, Dan, and Ned, as well as Carri McDonnell, Finance Director, Jen Marchers, Council Member, Bonnie Moinet, Dillon Economic Development Advisory Committee and Finance Director for the Town of Frisco, who also joined in their meetings and shared their views. Last but not the least, Kerstin Anderson, Marketing and Events Director, Town of Dillon, was instrumental in inviting the class to work on this subject and proved to be tremendously resourceful throughout the class.

In the news

Summit Daily: Dillon begins community outreach for core revitalization

Sawyer D'Argonne | September 3, 2019

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