CityBuild Invites Next Generation to Make a Better Denver

Launched last September, CityBuild Denver aims to get young adults involved in urbanism. Leaders see it as a platform for engagement and education, filling a void in the local city-building landscape.
"The idea originally was the brainchild of [Downtown Denver Partnership President and CEO] Tami Door and myself," says Brianna Borin, CityBuild Denver Co-Chair and the "Mother Hen” HR guru at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery.

"It came about from a conversation about: 'How do you effectively build resources between current board leadership and emerging leadership? How do you build a group who are inspired and engaged in building a community'?"

Borin went through the DDP Leadership Program, and saw the need for a broader means to connect with a younger audience. "We wanted to do something that's much more inclusive," she says.

In April at Convercent HQ in the Golden Triangle, CityMixer Vol. 2, "A Love Affair With Denver," featured former Mayor Wellington Webb, preservationist Dana Crawford, Chuck Sullivan of Something Independent, and other local notables. They each spoke for a few minutes to the crowd of about 130 people, then the crowd broke into eight groups and rotated through three more intimate roundtable sessions with the speakers.

"The goal was to bring leaders from different avenues of the community who have had impact...and inspire people to pursue their passion," says Borin, "We left people wanting to hear more."

Words from the wiseRoundtables allowed for more one-on-one time with the speakers at CityMixer Vol. 2.

Events like CityMixer Vol. 2 help catalyze new leadership, says Crawford. "The sooner they understand how a city evolved, the sooner they'll get involved."

Crawford says that the prime difference between the 1960s, when she spearheaded the preservation of Larimer Square, and today are that there are now programs that facilitate participation that didn't exist in decades past.

That's critical, she adds, because getting involved is a giant first step. "If we boiled it down, No. 1 would be participation. Participation leads to learning, and knowledge is power."

And this is a city where such a strategy works. "Denver has always been open and welcoming to newcomers," she says. "I always try to be of assistance."

Webb struck a similar tone with his comments at the April event, citing a "Western ethic” as Denver's differentiating factor. "If you can do the job, you get the job. That's what's special about Denver -- that doesn't happen in other cities around the country."

Do something moreLaunched last September, CityBuild Denver aims to get young adults involved in urbanism.

CityMixer Vol. 1 was at The Source in November 2013, and the plan is to have about two a year moving forward.

These aren't your typical happy-hour shindigs, says Borin. "CityMixer is not a networking event to sell what you do already. It's to inspire you to do something more."

Connections have already been made: Alex Pankonin, who is on the CityBuild leadership team, connected Emily Snyder, the city's bike guru at Denver Public Works, with an opportunity for grant money for infrastructure that recently came to fruition in the form of the new "green lanes" downtown.

"High tides raise all boats," says Samuel Schimek of I Heart Denver, another of the speakers at "A Love Affair With Denver." "If we all do our part to do better and be more, that's better for society."

The next CityBuild event will be held on June 19 in Skyline Park from 6 to 10 p.m., organized in tandem with PechaKucha Denver. The event is billed as a "summertime picnic” with an urban market, lawn games, and the main event, a series of PechaKucha presentations.

For the uninitiated, PechaKucha means chit-chat in Japanese and is a simple format where each speaker presents 20 images for 20 seconds each. Presenters add verbal color for the full 400 seconds as the images advance automatically. It's a global phenomenon: There are PechaKucha events in more than 700 cities worldwide.

Details about CityBuild's second annual CollaborEAT will be announced at the event. The first was a big hit, held in Civic Center Park in October 2013 and billed as "a free family-style dinner for 200 in the heart of the city."

While they're fun and creative, CityBuild's events are also a means to an end -- educating Denver's next generation about, you got it, building the city.

Perhaps Something Independent's Sullivan summed it up best at the April CityMixer: "Thanks for giving a shit. Sometimes it's easy not to care. When you find something you care about, you's going to be competing for eyes and ears and dollars and time, no matter how cool it is. But when you find something you care about, pursue it and people will follow."
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Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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