Summer Mountain Studio 2019: Leadville, Colorado

Tackling complex planning, policy, and design challenges in a unique and historic Rocky Mountain mining town

Learning in the highest town in North America

In the summer of 2019 the Planning Project Studio undertook a multi-faceted project in Leadville, the highest town in North America. Taught by Ryan Sotirakis, AICP, the class was a two-month long intensive summer studio. As part of the studio, the class spent two weeks in Leadville, an incredibly unique mining town with a fascinating history. Attended by 20 MURP and MUD students, the studio focused on assisting Leadville with several complex planning, design and policy challenges.

Complex challenges, innovative solutions

After doing some initial “first impressions” research in Denver and an afternoon field visit to Leadville, the class started to focus on background research about Leadville and Lake County including recent planning efforts, demographics, land uses, and history. Early meetings with Leadville’s “client group” - made up of town and county planners, economic development officials, elected officials and affordable housing groups - helped define the scope of the work. Some of the key challenges identified by the students and the client group are Leadville’s serious affordable housing shortage, lack of safe and convenient bicycle and pedestrian routes through town and a general lack of policy consistency and funding availability for housing and infrastructure projects. As part of the studio and building on previous efforts by several MURP Capstone projects, students provided a vision for the future of Leadville and laid out key goals for the city to pursue, including the design of a new mixed-income residential community, town-wide redevelopment and infill design guidelines, policy recommendations for economic development, housing creation and transportation goals, and creation of a cohesive network of non-automobile mobility throughout town and connecting to the larger regional trail system. 

Several class presentations were delivered to the Leadville client group at key milestones through the project, followed by a final presentation on August 1st. Final reports produced at the end of the class by each project group incorporated the valuable input received during the previous presentations. The overall experience was incredibly positive for everyone involved, and the students had a great time learning about the unique history and complex challenges facing this beautiful town.

In the news

Leadville Herald: Students propose design for affordable housing project

Rachel Woolworth, Herald Staff Writer | August 7, 2019

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