MURP Newsletter | Spring 2024

MURPAA President's Message

On behalf of the entire CU Denver Master of Urban and Regional Planning Alumni Association (MURPAA) Board, I hope you and your family are having a great start to 2024.

From accelerating the development of affordable housing and developing innovative climate change mitigations to ensuring equitable access to transit and making sure public health is a priority, planning students at CU Denver are combating some of the most pervasive, complex, and trying issues of our time.  

As we embark on the Spring 2024 Semester, we are looking forward to continue building connections between alumni and students that support this new talent entering the profession. We hope you will consider participating in some of our programs to foster those connections including: 

Capstone Conversations is a pivotal idea exchange event for capstone students to ask alumni for advice on their projects. Capstone Conversations will be held virtually Thursday, March 7 from 5:15 - 6:45 p.m. MT. Please sign up here to participate.

MURP Alumni LinkedIn Group is a great place to find out about MURP Alumni events and opportunities, connect with other alums, and find or post job openings on MURP Alumni LinkedIn. 

MURPAA Distinguished Planner Award & Lecture is the annual award and evening event given by MURPAA to a distinguished alumnus, or other individual who has supported our alumni and students and made a mark on the planning profession. Gil McNeish, who taught Planning Law for five decades, is this year’s very deserving recipient. We’ll be celebrating him on Thursday, April 11th, so be sure to mark your calendar and register! >> Register Here.

We hope to connect with you at one of our upcoming in-person or virtual events and platforms!  

Ryan Mulligan
President, Master of Urban and Regional Planning Alumni Association 

Message from the Chair and Faculty Updates

The Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program at CU Denver Earns Full Re-Accreditation

Provided by MURP student Dina Bleecker

The Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) has fully accredited the Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at the University of Colorado Denver for a seven-year term, effective January 1, 2024 to December 31, 2030.

In its report, the Site Visit Team noted many areas of excellence and the Program should be proud of its accomplishments. The Site Visit Team found "a collegial and highly engaged faculty, student body, alumni, and community partners; faculty focused on continuous program improvement aimed at achieving excellence; a remarkable offering of interdisciplinary partnerships across campus; opportunities for students to apply skills with hands-on professional learning activities through real-world planning projects in the community; deep exposure of global planning issues; and strong stakeholder support and committed practitioner faculty." 

PAB accreditation indicates that the Program has undergone an external review and substantially meets the PAB standards and criteria. Programs granted accreditation demonstrated conformity with PAB Standards after a thorough review from the Board. PAB bases its decisions on the overall quality of the program, its performance relative to its mission and strategic plan, and its performance relative to PAB’s five standards, which encompass a total of 29 criteria and 18 curriculum sub-criteria. 

Dina Bleecker pointing to her Capstone project.

MURP Capstone Projects Continue to Make an Impact across Colorado—and Beyond 

Provided by Jenny Steffel-Johnson

The capstone projects completed by the small fall cohort of MURP students have the potential to significantly improve individuals’ quality of life. Two students undertook projects for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Office of Innovative Mobility. Clay Hartley explored ways that CDOT’s Bustang could better serve far-flung Colorado communities by improving their first- and last-mile connections. Using the Loveland stop as the test site for analysis, Clay identified efficient and effective walking, micro-mobility (e-scooters and e-bikes), and micro-transit (car share and shuttle service) interventions that could significantly increase ridership. Nick Dam sought to identify ways to better connect elderly and disabled populations to transit on Denver’s Federal Boulevard. Drawing from previous research studies documenting these diverse populations’ likely challenges, Nick used several methods to assess two stations and recommend improvements.

Two capstone projects were completed by dual-degree students. Melissa Kline, who is combining her MURP degree with a law (JD) degree, undertook a housing needs assessment for the City of Boulder. Through extensive data collection and analysis, she determined that the city’s middle-income households lack attainable homeownership opportunities, which is causing them to move out of the city. Dual-degree Planning and Landscape Architecture student Hannah van der Vorst researched the contributions of Barnum Community Orchard, Denver Urban Gardens’ oldest food forest. Hannah began by identifying the potential ways that food forests could help achieve various City goals, including food access, community building, physical and mental health, tree canopy, carbon sequestration, and stormwater management. Using neighborhood surveys and a wide range of calculation techniques, Hannah determined the opportunities and limitations of food forests to contribute to community dietary, water runoff, and tree canopy objectives.

Finally, Dina Bleecker explored identity anchors, which have the potential to help build connections to self, community, landscape, and personal history by fostering a sense of belonging. Dina created a resource guide for Shopworks Architecture, full of inspiring examples of effective strategies for using identity anchors to help create inclusive and healthy multifamily housing through intentionally designed spaces that foster community and pride of home.

Student provides feedback to a Capstone presentation.
Four people at a table pointing to a map for a community engagement exercise.

Colorado Mountain Town Studio

Provided by Andy Rutz

Over the Summer 2023 semester, Andy Rutz led the Colorado Mountain Town Studio to Steamboat Springs, where 20 students helped to establish and articulate a community vision and set up engagements with city staff, elected and appointed officials, community leaders, and the general public. Students worked with Brad Calvert, a Principal Planner with the City of Steamboat Springs, and created a diagnostic report for the City of Steamboat Springs, which aimed to ultimately set the city up to create a new area community plan.  Over an intensive 8 weeks, the students had the opportunity to directly engage with the city through a series of formal presentations, student-led focus groups, intercept interviews, and a student-hosted public open house. The access to engaging the community was remarkable, which is a credit to Brad and the city staff. 

The work of the studio was well received by the client and the city and county leaders who were tasked with scoping the area community plan effort. Evidence of this positive reception was seen in the RFP that the city released in October for the area community plan project, as the RFP not only credited the students' diagnostic report as a key document for prospective consultant teams to review in their Initial Project Discovery, but it also reiterated many of the specific challenges and opportunities identified by the studio.

Many thanks to Brad and the City of Steamboat Springs for their generous support and engagement with the students and the MURP program!

Students sit around a table with site map and a laptop, pointing to locations along the site map.

Planning Project Studio with HDR

Provided by Ken Schroeppel

Working in collaboration with the international planning and design consulting firm HDR, the Fall 2023 Planning Project Studio, led by Assistant Professor Ken Schroeppel , is actively engaged in formulating a vision framework for a designated area along the South Platte River in Denver. Punctuated by a string of transformational redevelopment projects like River Mile, Ball Arena, Auraria Campus, Sun Valley, and many others, this region has been coined the Denver Central Crescent by HDR. The studio's primary objective is to foster alignment and cohesiveness among these ongoing projects and any future development potential in this important section of the city.

In pursuit of this goal, students have undertaken a multifaceted approach by reviewing existing plans, researching historical landmarks, proposing policy recommendations, orchestrating charrettes, and employing advanced mapping techniques.

The aim is to identify and recommend holistic strategies for the City and County of Denver to effectively manage and plan for this unique opportunity within the urban landscape. Throughout the semester, the students have extensively researched the City's Large Development Review process, the history of the South Platte in Denver, master plans for the redevelopment projects, and future land use planning outlined in Blueprint Denver, among other crucial elements. This will culminate in a comprehensive presentation to HDR, encapsulating the information in a strategic framework the City can leverage for optimal development and planning.

Six people standing around a presentation.
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