Addressing Small Town Needs With Preservation Planning

A pilot program from APA’s Urban Design & Preservation Division addresses the needs of underserved residents in Colorado.

Urban planners are uniquely suited to facilitate conversations about the future design and development of our communities. In particular, preservationists and designers have the training and tools to talk about change. APA's Urban Design & Preservation Division brought these skills to the Town of Center, Colorado, in a pilot program called the Design-Preservation Rapid Assistance Team (D-PRAT).

Community-driven Urban Design Initiative

This first D-PRAT program creates a new path for planners and designers to work with underserved communities to tackle historic preservation and urban design challenges and address needs that exist in many small towns throughout the country.

Specific objectives for the D-PRAT team included:

  • Developing land use concepts for the 90-acre annexation area (the "North 90 Addition") adjacent to the historic downtown core
  • Analyzing future housing typologies and housing affordability
  • Exploring downtown revitalization opportunities
  • Proposing historic preservation strategies
On site D-PRAT members with Downtown Colorado Inc., Center officials, and community members. Credit: Bradley Wolf

On-site D-PRAT members with Downtown Colorado Inc., Center officials, and community members. First from right: Brian Lujan, Town Manager; Second from right: Katherine Correll, DCI Executive Director; Second from left: Brian Foote, Chair, UDP Division. Photo Credit: Bradley Wolf

Revitalization Plan Driven by Community

Incorporated in 1907, the Town of Center is located in the center of the San Luis Valley and surrounded by agricultural uses. The town's population is 1,929, and 87 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic.

A nationwide team of experts met with the town leadership and several organizations such as Downtown Colorado Inc. The D-PRAT team held several in-person workshops, including a tour of the community, discussions with high school students, and a presentation to the town board. The virtual UDP Division team members provided critical assistance to the in-person team with maps, graphics, and ideation. Together the in-person and virtual teams worked collaboratively to develop a final document that aims to address the unique needs of the Center's underserved community members.

The final land use concept includes an extension of Worth Street, the town's historic "Main Street," through the North 90 Addition and the creation of a grid street pattern to tie into the existing town grid.

The proposed land uses include:

  • New commercial and mixed-use core extending from the existing downtown commercial district
  • New town hall/community center in the downtown
  • New community park
  • Small industrial area at the periphery
  • Mix of housing types and densities throughout the addition area
APA D-PRAT recommendations include expanding Worth Street in Center, Colorado. Credit: Bradley Wolf

D-PRAT recommendations include expanding Worth Street in Center, Colorado. Credit: Bradley Wolf

Enhance Worth Street, Preserve History

Recommendations for the existing commercial area include improving the streetscape along Worth Street by adding pedestrian-friendly amenities and a new median with landscape features, enhancing and restoring building facades, and promoting infill development.

Finally, the team laid out a historic preservation program for the town, as well as a plan for developing an organization to manage the commercial district. These recommendations offer a plan for Center to balance preservation and growth, enhance the town's sense of place, address housing needs, and empower the future of the community.

Overall, the D-PRAT found that the Town of Center has a unique identity, engaged youth, and strong leadership. With the right planning tools, Center will be a focal point in the San Luis Valley and Colorado. DCI and the town plan to use this preliminary assessment to apply for HUD and state grants for more comprehensive planning.

Read the final report

Get connected

The Urban Design & Preservation Division is a nationwide community of professionals dedicated to supporting educational and networking opportunities for planners, urban designers, preservationists, and allied professionals.

The D-PRAT planning team for Center, Colorado, included Brian Foote, AICP, Brad Wolf AICP, Marianne Stuck, AICP, Anne Miller, AICP, Lauren Trice, AICP, Hadley Peterson and Sean McCartney.

Learn more about APA's Urban Design & Preservation Division

About the Author
Brad Wolf, AICP, was a member of the D-PRAT planning team for the Town of Center, Colorado. He also serves as the City Historic Preservation Officer for Kansas City, Missouri.

April 1, 2022

By Bradley Wolf, AICP