The small area planning process offers local stakeholders the opportunity to come together and shape the future of an area. Over the years, small area plans in Denver have taken many forms, including plans for neighborhoods, station areas, and corridors. Small area plans do a lot for communities:
The neighborhood planning process has three core values: intentional, equitable, measurable. These values are the foundation of the Neighborhood Planning Initiative and guided the development of the strategic plan. These core values will remain constant as area plans are developed over the coming years.
As of 2016, only about 19 percent of the city benefits from a small area plan adopted after Blueprint Denver, the 2002 citywide land use and transportation plan. Another 39 percent of the city has plans in place that were adopted before Blueprint Denver, making them increasingly out of date. And about 42 percent of the city has no small area plan at all.
This initiative is a 10 to 14 year effort to ensure that every corner of the city has a small area plan. Once that is the case, neighborhoods will be on more equal footing, benefiting from comparable policy guidance on issues related to growth and development.
The planning process will be clear and participants will know what to expect.
In the past, small area plans were conducted at a variety of scales, the most common of which was the individual neighborhood-level. Under this system, each neighborhood plan took an average of two years to complete. NPI will group neighborhoods together to cover larger areas. Each of Denver’s 78 statistical neighborhoods will be assigned to one of 19 groupings, and each grouping will receive its own area plan. For more details on the proposed groupings, refer to the Grouping and Sequencing section beginning on page 14 of this strategic plan.
NPI area plans will be designed to be completed and adopted in 18 months and will take no longer than 2 years. Observing this timeline for each plan is important in order to keep the larger 19-plan initiative on schedule. Some plans will use the entire two-year timeframe, whereas others may be completed faster. The total difference between the fastest timeline and the maximum timeline across all plans is approximately 3.5 years, as detailed below:
Observing the prescribed timeline for each plan has two major benefits for stakeholders. First, it helps avoid stakeholder fatigue, and second, it allows plans to get to the implementation stage faster.
Citywide plans such as Blueprint Denver and Denver Moves provide policy guidance on topics that overlap significantly with NPI. Because NPI is conducted at the neighborhood/local level, NPI plans will provide more detailed and comprehensive guidance than is possible in citywide plans. Establishing clear roles between NPI and citywide plans will help to ensure clarity and consistency between plans.
The planning process will treat neighborhoods fairly and promote balanced, equitable outcomes.
With known resources as of the time of this Strategic Plan (2016), it is envisioned that there will be three NPI plans in process at any given time. Sustaining this level of planning over the course of many years will require identifying a consistent funding stream for the initiative.
NPI represents a significant commitment to area planning and implementation over a long period of time. When one area plan is completed, the next will start. NPI’s initial goal will be to obtain 100% coverage of the city with area plans, but NPI will not be over when this is achieved. By the time the last plan is completed, significant time will have passed and the first few NPI area plans will need to be refreshed. At that point, NPI will shift its focus to cycling back through the completed plans and updating them.
Some topics will be addressed by every NPI area plan (referred to as “always topics” in the NPI planning approach). Other topics do not need to be addressed by every NPI plan, but may be important to address in a particular area (referred to as “focus topics” in the NPI planning approach). Anything can be considered as a potential focus topic, but only the most critical topics will be added to the plan scope. The intent is to limit the scope of topics for two reasons. First, it allows for focus on addressing the most critical issues and opportunities, which in turn will lead to more focused (and ideally faster) implementation of plan recommendations. Second, reducing the number of topics addressed by the plan will help the plans to be completed within the prescribed timeline.
The planning process will make use of data to inform decisions and track implementation progress.
NPI will systematically prepare plans for each of the 19 planning areas. The sequencing of these plans will be as objective as possible and informed by a number of factors including planning need, previous planning, plan impact, funding, efficiency, and geographic equity (see page 19 for more detail on each of these factors). NPI area plans will occur in phases, with phase 1 plans occurring in the first 18-24 months of the initiative, phase 2 plans occurring in the next 18- 24 month period after that, and so on. As one phase of the initiative is completed, the remaining areas of the city will be re-evaluated relative to the factors and the next phase announced.
Wherever possible, NPI plans will identify metrics to track progress towards the implementation of recommendations and goals. By using a consistent set of metrics, it will be possible to report on plan implementation at regular intervals following adoption by City Council.
Occasionally, special circumstances may arise that require revisiting and possibly amending completed NPI area plans. For example, in the years following plan adoption, implementation metrics or other observations may reveal that some trends are headed in the wrong direction. In these cases, targeted plan amendments may be needed to adjust the policy direction and affect change. When undertaken, NPI plan amendments should also identify corresponding updates to Blueprint Denver (if needed).
Blueprint Denver: An Integrated Land Use and Transportation Plan was first adopted in 2002 and updated in 2019. Blueprint Denver is a supplement to Comprehensive Plan 2040, focused on land use and transportation, that calls for growing an inclusive city through: complete neighborhoods and complete transportation networks; a measured , common-sense approach to new growth; and for the first time, land-use decisions through the lens of social equity. When small area plans are adopted, they update the Comprehensive Plan and Blueprint Denver.
Blueprint Denver was updated recently as part of Denveright, a community‐driven planning process that resulted in five new citywide plans: Comprehensive Plan 2040, Blueprint Denver, Game Plan for a Healthy City, Denver Moves: Pedestrians and Trails, and Denver Moves: Transit. In the years ahead, NPI will build upon the foundation that is set by these plans, applying and refining citywide concepts, goals and policy recommendations at the local level. Furthermore, each NPI plan will identify specific updates to Blueprint Denver, and as such NPI will play a key role in keeping the citywide plan current and relevant between major updates.
For additional information on the strategies and tools that Blueprint Denver will incorporate and how neighborhood planning will build on this, read the NPI Strategic Plan (PDF).