Aug 15, 2022 - News

Meet Denver’s first chief urban designer

A portrait of a woman in a black jacket and turtleneck with light brown hair.
Denver's chief urban designer Eugenia Di Girolamo. Photo courtesy of the city's planning office.

Eugenia Di Girolamo has only been in Denver for two weeks, but she’s already starting to get a feel for the city’s architectural character.

Driving the news: Di Girolamo, who most recently worked as deputy director for urban design in New York City’s planning office, was hired this summer as Denver’s first chief urban designer.

Why it matters: As Denver continues to grow, Di Girolamo will be tasked with creating a longterm plan for how the city will develop for its residents.

  • The vision will need to take into account new, existing and sometimes historic properties and places, while looking to create new designs that can help improve quality of life across the city.
  • "What I'm trying to do, and how I am trying to set up this position for success, is listening, and really talking to people first," Di Girolamo told Axios Denver. "I don't believe in coming in with a vision already, I believe in building that vision together."

Big picture: Di Girolamo told Axios that she wants to meet with the public, elected officials, developers and local architects to figure out her priorities and goals. She said she’s especially excited about speaking to the public.

  • She's looking forward to speaking to the community about "what good design means in Denver and for Denver."
  • She worked at a private architectural firm for two years before returning to a municipal job.

Yes, but: Unlike some major cities, Denver doesn’t necessarily have a distinct architectural style.

  • There are some noteworthy characteristics. "The tradition of the city is masonry," Dick Farley, an architect and urban designer, told Denverite in 2018, referring to brick buildings.
  • The Denver FUGLY Facebook page regularly lambasts what many people see as unsightly new buildings in the city.
  • So-called slot homes — multi-unit properties arranged side by side in narrow spaces, usually facing away from the street — were banned by the City Council in 2018.
  • Council member Paul López criticized the style, saying it "robbed our neighborhoods of character."

What they’re saying: "As somebody who teaches urban design, this is something that's very important to me and something that Denver needs," Ken Schroeppel, the director of urban design at CU Denver's College of Architecture and Planning, told Westword in June.

  • Schroeppel said the city needs to find "a way to continue to densify and accommodate" the thousands of people moving in, especially in non-downtown areas.

By the numbers: The 2022 State of Downtown Denver report from the Downtown Denver Partnership said there are 14 projects under construction downtown alone, including renovations to the 16th Street Mall and the Colorado Convention Center expansion.

  • The report notes that 41 projects have been completed downtown over the past four years, bringing in more than $3.2 billion in investment between 2018 and May 2022.
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