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Eugenia Di Girolamo Is Denver’s First Leader City Clothier

On a scorching, sunny Thursday in August, Eugenia Di Girolamo is cooling off on an RTD bus taking her from Confluence Park to the Civic Heart space and her new place of business as Denver’s leader city clothier. Denver’s first leader city clothier.

Di Girolamo, a local of Italy, lately arrived in Denver from New York Town, the place she were dwelling in Brooklyn and dealing because the deputy director of city design for the NYC Division of Making plans. She’s excited that she snagged an inexpensive price ticket to wait the pre-season match-up between the Broncos and Cowboys at Empower Box at Mile Prime.

“I need to determine get there with out using,” says Di Girolamo, who lives within the Golden Triangle and tries to stroll every time she will be able to to soak within the metropolis’s pedestrian revel in. “I’m questioning if it’s too a ways to stroll. I believe I will stroll.”

She’s been strolling so much since she moved right here. “I learn numerous native information — together with Westword — however my most well-liked technique to get to grasp a brand new metropolis is to spend the time to stroll, motorbike and communicate to other people. I’ve been doing numerous that in recent times.”

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Civic Heart Park on the middle of the town.

Westword

A educated architect, Di Girolamo hails from Pescara, a metropolis at the Adriatic Sea that has beautiful seashores. The 38-year-old loves the football membership Inter Milan, and brings again large boxes of olive oil each and every time she returns from a go back and forth to Italy.

Her hobby in city design was once sparked through the holidays she took along with her oldsters round Europe. “In the summertime, we’d power all over, from time to time even to the north of Europe, as a result of we couldn’t find the money for to fly,” she recollects. “However that was once stunning, as a result of we’d prevent in numerous towns alongside the way in which.

“Simply rising up, I used to be ready to peer a lot of towns, the way in which they had been advanced, and a lot of cultures and international locations,” she continues. “I believe the proximity that you’ve got in Europe to a variety in constructed environments was once actually instrumental in me deciding to paintings on the city scale.”

She studied structure on the College of Bologna, the place she feels she were given a well-rounded schooling. In Italy, structure colleges train the apply “at other scales, from the constructing element the entire technique to simply regional considering and broader considering,” she says. “I actually preferred that form of schooling, the place it’s now not as compartmentalized. … It actually gave me a broader standpoint about city-making and building basically.”

Di Girolamo, who additionally studied on the College of Southampton in England, began her occupation with the NYC Division of Making plans via a summer season internship in 2009. About two years later, the town introduced her on as a full-time affiliate city clothier running on a variety of initiatives, together with flood resiliency and revitalization of transit-oriented trends. She in the end moved into a brand new position as a senior city clothier sooner than spending a yr as a fellow with the City Design Discussion board and a few yr and a part with WXY Studio, an city design company, whilst additionally instructing city design at Cornell College. After that, she went again to the NYC making plans division, taking a task as a senior lead city clothier sooner than in the end changing into the deputy director of city design.

Throughout her paintings in New York, Di Girolamo stressed out the significance of public engagement.

“I like to base my city design method on neighborhood making plans and neighborhood engagement. I’m a company believer in realizing where first, visiting where, paying attention to the individuals who are living there and paintings there, figuring out from them what are the problems that they face each day, how can the town lend a hand them, and the way city design can lend a hand them are living higher within the metropolis they love,” Di Girolamo says. Whilst on the division, she helped create a web page that may lend a hand metropolis citizens higher perceive city design initiatives.

“I like to base my city design method on neighborhood making plans and neighborhood engagement.”

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City design has been a thriller to many Denver citizens for years as they’ve watched fugly trends spring up in every single place the town.

And whilst the Town of Denver has hired city designers over time, it hasn’t had a high-ranking professional focusing only on city design since lengthy sooner than Michael Hancock turned into mayor in 2011. And it’s by no means had a prime city clothier.

In 2019, Denver Town Council followed updates to Blueprint Denver, the land-use and transportation plan at the start authorized in 2002. It was once via that procedure that it turned into very transparent the Mile Prime Town had to create the position of a prime city clothier.

Later that yr, after Hancock tapped Laura Aldrete, a Denver local who had labored on actual property building at Denver Global Airport, to be the brand new govt director of the Denver Division of Neighborhood Making plans and Construction, she set a objective of hiring a prime city clothier.

“I’ve noticed moments the place we’ve keen on design after which we ebb clear of it,” Aldrete explains. “I believe we’re in a second the place we’re coming again to serious about sturdy high quality city design in our public realm, and the instant is now.”

City design is the nexus of metropolis making plans with structure and panorama structure. And whilst structure has been a occupation since precedent days and town making plans and panorama structure were their very own professions for over a century, city design has best lately been known as its personal box.

“City design is much less known as a discrete occupation, no less than in the USA, partially as it doesn’t have a corresponding skilled licensure or nationwide regulatory group the way in which that the opposite 3 do,” says Ken Schroeppel, director of city design on the College of Colorado Denver’s Faculty of Structure and Making plans. “While you pass to Europe, as an example, and also you communicate to planners and architects who are living and paintings in Eu towns, they actually describe themselves extra as city designers than [ones that] have a technical experience in a type of 3 fields.”

After pivoting to concentrate on different duties all through the primary yr of the pandemic, Neighborhood Making plans and Construction in any case posted the manager city clothier activity in July 2021.

A yr later, the town employed Di Girolamo.

What stood out about Di Girolamo was once her skill to closely believe “neighborhood and social fairness” in city design, Aldrete says. “The ones pieces aren’t regularly coupled in combination, and that was once her place to begin as she had the conversations with me and with the choice committee about the place the city design box will have to transfer. It felt like she was once serious about it from a Twenty first-century standpoint.”

City designers take into consideration the entire plans of a metropolis whilst additionally taking a look at stylistic possible choices of particular person trends and the whole thing in between. The city clothier considers the lived revel in for everybody who makes use of a metropolis, together with citizens, vacationers, commuters, pedestrians, bikers, transit customers and drivers.

“Normally, [it’s] serious about other people, their revel in of the town, giving them products and services that they want, serious about how they are living within the metropolis and the way city design in fact affects other people’s lives — as a result of the place you are living, your stroll to paintings, your power to paintings, your stroll to university, no matter that can be, actually has a social have an effect on in your lifestyles,” Di Girolamo explains.

And an “equitable distribution of fine and nice design” around the metropolis is of extreme significance. “I method city design from an engagement and fairness standpoint,” Di Girolamo provides. “I consider excellent city-building will have to be about other people and their revel in of the town the place they are living, paintings and spend loose time. I obviously noticed an alignment between my values and keenness for neighborhood engagement and the values of Neighborhood Making plans and Construction. Denver already has a couple of city designers on personnel, which is superb, and from my conversations with other people at the metropolis staff and within the personal and educational sectors, it was once transparent how a lot city design was once valued right here. I discovered it refreshing and provoking, and I’ve cherished getting to grasp the folk and puts in Denver up to now.”

However there’s so a lot more to peer! That is best her fourth day at the activity, and Di Girolamo has agreed to a excursion of positive portions of Denver the place city design problems are entrance and heart.

Laura Swartz, director of communications at Neighborhood Making plans and Construction, comes alongside for the journey…and stroll. And whilst our travels are designed to assemble Di Girolamo’s insights and observations about positive websites, one of the most excursion comes to getting her on top of things at the background of positive places and one of the most main problems that Denver is dealing with. Our first prevent:

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RTD’s Civic Heart Station isn’t a welcoming spot.

Westword

Civic Heart Station and Civic Heart Park
Our excursion begins on the northeast nook of Broadway and Colfax. “It could be fascinating to know the way many strains come via right here and the way that may be serving the downtown,” says Di Giromalo, peering on the awnings of RTD’s Civic Heart Station, which was once renovated in 2017 after the remodeled Union Station reopened as a multi-modal hub and RTD’s Marketplace Side road Station closed. “The way you serve it now, and the way you serve it someday. I believe funding in public transit is at all times extraordinarily necessary for a metropolis as massive as Denver.”

Between the station and the nook is a barren lot stuffed with rocks and surrounded through fencing, which is owned through First Interstate Financial institution of Denver. What would Di Girolamo do with this area? “I believe it’s tricky to grasp at the moment,” she solutions. “What I might do is actually perceive higher the makes use of and the companies and what’s across the web site, and the way the web site performs a task within the space, after which simply pass from there, figuring out the web site and the world first.”

Around the road is a web site a lot more straightforward to grasp. “We’re within the Civic Heart, and we all know the place we’re going,” she says. “It’s extraordinarily necessary for a metropolis to have areas like this, the place other people can come in combination and categorical their minds and simply revel in a civic heart or a middle of the town.”

Civic Heart were given its get started as a part of Mayor Robert Speer’s Town Gorgeous undertaking greater than a century in the past. However in September 2021, it was once closed for questions of safety; it had transform a spot the place other people frolicked all through the day dealing and doing medicine.

“I believe that that’s indisputably a subject matter that numerous main American towns are coping with nowadays, and I’m positive it was once exacerbated through COVID,” Di Girolamo says.

Even though Civic Heart is now open once more all through the day, like any Denver parks, it’s off limits after 11 p.m. Steel barricades stay at the perimeter in order that the one approach to go into is thru specified entrances. The fencing is the kind of barricade you could be expecting to briefly keep an eye on visitors glide, now not the border you wish to have for Denver’s crown jewel of its park gadget.

Di Girolamo doesn’t know a lot in regards to the fencing, however speculates that it might be used for conserving the grass. “I believe so long as there are issues of access which might be obviously visual and make allowance everybody to come back in and benefit from the park, I believe that’s an important factor, evidently,” she says.

I grew up simply outdoor of New York Town, and for some time, my mom has lived through Central Park, so I will change New York reviews with Di Girolamo. Whilst Civic Heart Park is lovely and the most important spot for occasions, I don’t assume it’s the similar form of park as Central Park. “I wouldn’t simply pass right here with a good friend and be like, ‘Howdy, do you wish to have to head throw a Frisbee or a soccer at Civic Heart Park?’ I don’t actually really feel adore it’s considered that approach. It simply turns out adore it’s now not totally activated in some way that may have it achieve its attainable,” I inform her.

Di Girolamo has an intriguing reaction.

“It sort of feels fairly other from Central Park,” she has the same opinion. “Central Park is a park inside residential and industrial spaces, however this can be a extra formal park this is surrounding the civic heart. With the intention to me, it’s nice that one thing like that is in fact skilled through other people. Other folks on their lunch spoil can come right here. That’s actually nice.”

At this level, Swartz chimes in, suggesting that Town Park is actually Denver’s model of Central Park. After which it clicks for me: the zoo, the jazz concert events, the swan boats — Town Park actually is Denver’s Central Park.

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The sixteenth Side road Mall is present process a significant renovation.

Westword

sixteenth Side road Mall
As we head from Civic Heart Park to the sixteenth Side road Mall, Di Girolamo talks about a few of her favourite Eu towns, with Rome in the summertime on the most sensible of the checklist.

“I grew up going to Rome on my faculty journeys,” she says. “And I at all times cherished how you’ll be able to revel in the very, very previous and one of the most new. There’s a particularly fascinating mixture of types and reviews, and the town grew on most sensible of that. And it’s at all times sunny, adore it’s sunny right here, in order that’s nice.”

Arriving on the mall, which is present process a significant renovation after 40 years, I inform Di Girolamo the way it was once “designed through the fellow who constructed the glass pyramids on the Louvre.” Swartz gives “I.M. Pei,” to which Di Girolamo responds knowingly, “Ah. One in all his structures is true there.” It’s the lodge at 1550 Court docket Position that was once a significant other to Pei’s iconic hyperbolic paraboloid at the mall, which was once demolished many years in the past.

Pei additionally encouraged the enduring, rattlesnake-inspired granite of the mall’s pavers, which might be additionally endangered.

Swartz notes that the mall recovery undertaking will change the ageing granite with a floor this is much less slippery, shifting transit lanes to the middle in order that areas subsequent to walkways may also be higher activated and upload to the mall’s tree cover. “How will we make this extra of a spot to linger and be, quite than only a position to stroll via seeking to get in your vacation spot?” Swartz asks. The Town of Denver is aiming to wrap up the undertaking, which can value $149 million, through the tip of 2024; it’s being funded through a mixture of native, state and federal greenbacks.

“A undertaking like that actually turns out adore it could be a perfect catalyst to begin to get to that modify that you just had been speaking about,” Di Girolamo says. “I believe that one thing this is nice this is that no less than you might have some lively makes use of at the floor surface, so there’s a reason why to come back right here already. And with growth to the streetscape, expectantly that may simply recuperate and higher and higher to the 24/7, the extra job you might have simply are available in each and every hour of the day, all through the week, the weekends.” You do have some retail outlets, and also you do have the eating places, and you have got places of work shut through. There are some apartments. I believe that the combination is there. I believe it simply must settle a bit bit extra and evolve a bit of extra. I’m actually hopeful that the redesign of the mall shall be a catalyst for that, for other people…to linger, and now not simply come right here and briefly get out.”

On the height of the pandemic, portions of New York Town misplaced virtually all in their foot visitors, which Di Girolamo were given to peer up-close and private. The issue has been exacerbated in different towns with central industry districts which might be one-trick ponies, she notes: They have got industrial areas with out as a lot residential and with in large part unactivated floor flooring, and that creates the sensation of a ghost the city when employees aren’t entering the place of business as a lot.

A few of this may also be ameliorated through activating the ground-floor spaces and in addition changing industrial areas into residential devices, which Di Girolamo was once serving to to do in NYC and which has already began right here in Denver.

“You do want the eating places, you do want the citizens,” she says. “You wish to have the companies to stay a space alive and lively — actually seeking to try for that 24/7 activation that makes a metropolis heart colourful.”

Town facilities had been dealing with demanding situations sooner than 2020, however the pandemic simply heightened them. “Like many different massive American towns, Denver is dealing with an evolution in the way in which we paintings and revel in the general public realm following the COVID-19 pandemic,” Di Girolamo notes. “This, in fact, has repercussions all through the town, now not simply within the core, and would require us to assume creatively and paintings collaboratively about how we deliver lifestyles again to downtown, making sure that it turns into a full of life, protected and alluring mixed-use position that every one Denverites can revel in and really feel happy with.”

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Union Station will get issues from Di Girolamo for its capability as a public area.

Westword

Union Station
We head down the mall to Union Station, which was once extremely beneficial to Di Girolamo sooner than she ever were given to the Mile Prime Town. “I’ve requested a couple of other people what their favourite position in Denver is so I will test it out,” she says. “And an individual stated that the station and outdoor it’s their favourite position as it’s actually a spot the place you’ll be able to simply pass and hang around, and also you don’t must essentially eat the rest, or if you wish to have, you’ll be able to. It’s a spot that actually permits everybody from the town to come back and revel in a public area. I believe that resolution was once very heartfelt.”

However that resolution was once now not whole. The Nice Corridor at Union Station, as soon as billed as “Denver’s lounge,” isn’t as obtainable in this day and age. Safety guards were cracking down to ensure that the bogs are used best through paying shoppers, which isn’t the case at Grand Central Station in New York Town.

Whilst the renovation of Union Station, with its eating places and upstairs lodge and large open area, has been hailed as a significant good fortune, there were extra problems with the bus station that was once put in behind the constructing. During the last 8 months, the Denver Police Division has been conserving an in depth eye on “homeless people who congregate and safe haven there, changing into prey to drug sellers.” Front to the bus terminal and its facility is now restricted to passengers; RTD is putting in gates.

After taking part in the atmosphere of the Nice Corridor, we stroll outdoor and around the tracks to the again of Union Station and the bus terminal.

“It feels slightly seamless to me,” Di Girolamo says, praising the transition.“It feels very approachable.”
She’s glad to peer taller residential structures across the again of Union Station, in what was once as soon as a dusty railyard, and praises one of the most close by companies, together with a cafe, that experience spilled onto the sidewalk and road.

“I believe density is at all times nice round transit — to actually be sure you’re capitalizing on transit infrastructure and actually engaging an increasing number of other people to make use of it as it’s so with ease positioned,” she says.

However Di Girolamo does wonder if one of the most floor flooring of structures across the again of Union Station might be higher activated.

“In city design, one thing that we’re at all times striving for is activating the frontages up to imaginable with makes use of, but in addition, from a design standpoint, ensuring that we don’t have clean partitions,” she explains. “We actually prohibit the volume of entrances to parking from the most important streets. In case you have companies that face the road and you’ll be able to see inside and outside, you actually really feel much more protected, and also you’re keen to head a bit bit additional through strolling, and also you’re going to come to a decision not to take your automobile as a lot.”

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Di Girolamo announces Confluence “an attractive park.”

Westword

Confluence Park
Proceeding into the Central Platte Valley, we walk over to Confluence Park, as regards to the place gold was once came upon and Denver was once based over 150 years in the past. We begin speaking now not on the subject of the town’s previous, however about how Di Girolamo envisions one of the most paintings she’ll be doing for its long term.

“The best way I labored in New York is that I used to be ready to paintings on all sides of making plans, so each from visioning research [and] rezonings, but in addition utility overview and inter-agency coordination,” she says. “So I do assume that city design experience and a watch on a undertaking might be useful at any degree.”

A pal had advised her she wanted to take a look at the flagship REI retailer within the previous tramway constructing subsequent to Confluence Park, so she’s already been within the space. Di Girolamo plans to shop for climbing sneakers from REI quickly, since she didn’t have any again in NYC.

As we gaze on the other people staying cool as they splash round within the South Platte, Di Girolamo announces that “it’s an attractive park.” And that will get her serious about one thing else that makes Denver particular.
“Using, from time to time you get a view of the mountains, and it’s so great,” she says. “I do love that about Denver. You might be within the metropolis, that city surroundings, however you’ll be able to nonetheless see the mountains and get reminded that they’re there and that they’re so shut through.”

The confluence of 2 waterways within the middle of the town was once some other delightful wonder. “I really like how Cherry Creek and Platte River trails be offering a perfect commuting path for many of us in Denver,” she notes, complimenting the “infusion of the paintings from native artists in public areas in lots of the neighborhoods I visited up to now.”

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The brand new city design leader has some tips for Tennyson Side road.

Westword

Tennyson Side road
With RTD loose for the month of August, we hop on a bus certain for Civic Heart. “Public transit in Denver is a brilliant asset,” Di Girolamo notes, “and I would really like to peer carrier make bigger as extra other people use it to get round. It is very important capitalize at the present and deliberate transit get admission to in order that new building may also be much less reliant on automobile use.”

Nonetheless, we get in Swartz’s automobile to go over to Tennyson Side road, one of the most neighborhoods that has transform floor 0 for the town’s present city design debates.

Some of the worst sides of recent building within the space during the last decade or so has been the development of slot properties. The time period is exclusive to Denver, however the idea that isn’t: A slot house is a “multi-unit residential construction consisting of connected living devices organized side-by-side and essentially perpendicular to the road,” in keeping with Neighborhood Making plans and Construction.

Builders started constructing loads of slot properties alongside Tennyson after Denver Town Council followed the 2010 zoning code. Whilst council necessarily banned the development of slot properties in 2018, there have been masses already in position.

Whilst the slot properties have broken the main-street enchantment of Tennyson, Di Girolamo has some tips to support at the scenario.

“One thing in New York that we had been seeking to do so much, particularly with affordable-housing structures the place we’re seeking to maximize envelopes up to imaginable, is actually taking a look on the floor flooring and figuring out how are we able to position a unit somewhat extra increased so that you don’t get that window proper on the eye degree after which activating the road,” she says. “It’s an aspect road, so that you don’t have that industrial use, so how do you do this via design? With planting, with architectural main points.”

And what’s going down on Tennyson is reflected in lots of portions of Denver, the place builders proceed to construct. “A part of my position shall be to give a boost to the town’s building overview procedure with the objective of turning in nice design throughout Denver,” notes Di Girolamo. “It’s now not best about aesthetics, but in addition particularly about how a constructing meets the road, as an example, how new building enhances present structures and buildings and is helping give a contribution to the sense of position and belonging of a specific community, how products and services and other makes use of, like retail outlets, are dispensed throughout a web site, to call a couple of.”

The hiring of Di Girolamo comes at the most important time for Denver. Judging from present inhabitants traits, the Mile Prime Town is simply going to continue to grow. To stop it from changing into simply some other metropolis within the U.S., considerate city design must be at the leading edge of this expansion.

“That’s why having an city design director for the town goes to be actually useful,” says Schroeppel. “As a result of now there’s an individual whose activity is particularly to concentrate on a few of these big-picture questions and to lend a hand lead the town ahead on this space.”

Provides Aldrete, “The layer we’re including to this is, how will we do this in a classy approach? How will we be sure an authenticity in order that Denver is exclusive as a metropolis geographically positioned within the continental USA, and our historical past is exclusive? I believe we’re simply leaning into that to make sure that we’ve that persisted authenticity that presentations up in city design.”

On August 13, the Broncos handled Di Girolamo to a 17-7 victory over the Cowboys.

Denver’s first leader city clothier walked from her house within the Golden Triangle to the stadium, then took a scooter again.

“The go back and forth was once easy. I believed the motorbike lanes connecting to and from the stadium space had been nice,” she says.

“I look ahead to getting my boots at the floor, experiencing the entire nice neighborhoods of the town and listening to immediately from the folk in Denver about what’s necessary to them in terms of the constructed surroundings of their metropolis,” she provides.

“What I might find irresistible to do right here, at first, is simply stroll all over or simply consult with the entire neighborhoods and communicate to parents’ communities or architects and builders, but in addition neighborhood representatives and elected officers, and in addition other people in the street. What’s their revel in of Denver, and what would they adore it to be?”

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