Fort Collins Is Changing… Becoming More Urban

Almost every time I walk my dogs, or ride my bike, or drive my car around the city of Fort Collins, I see something new. I’m not saying that I see something I hadn’t noticed before. I mean I see something that didn’t use to be there. Driving north on Shields between Mulberry and Vine feels utterly different because the street has bike lanes for the first time. Walking through downtown feels different because there’s so many new buildings. Bicycling on Pitkin feels different because of the new intersection improvements at major arterials. The city is changing, and as it changes, it’s becoming more urban.

Fort Collins graduated from being a cow town long ago. In the mid-1900s, it evolved into a manufacturing community. Woodward-Governor opened a plant in 1955. Waterpik started up in 1962. Kodak built a plant in Windsor in 1968. Hewlett-Packard opened a facility in Loveland in 1960 and another in Fort Collins in 1976. And Anheuser-Busch opened their Fort Collins operations in 1988. (The train line was almost moved out of Fort Collins in the ’80s until they realized it would be needed for Anheuser-Busch. Thanks, AB.)

In the past decade or so, the city has been morphing again, this time into a craft drinks (beer, spirits, cider, even kombucha) mecca with a burgeoning arts/music movement. But the city is also becoming more dense as we expand ever closer to our Growth Management Area (GMA) boundary (the point at which we’ve said we won’t grow outward any further). Realizing that not all new construction can take place in greenfields, developers are looking toward the core of the city, redeveloping parts of Old Town, the River District, the North Fort, and Campus West in particular.

These ainted transformer boxes in Seckner Alley are part of the City's Art in Public Places program. The first boxes were painted in 2006 in Tenney Alley.
These painted transformer boxes in Seckner Alley are part of the City’s
Art in Public Places program. The first boxes were painted in 2006 in Tenney Alley.

As the city’s population continues to grow, traffic and congestion are becoming daily headaches. The number of yearly crashes has been steadily rising, peaking in 2015 with 4,438 reported incidents (though 2016 wasn’t particularly better given that there were still 4,348 reported crashes). The only way to avoid traffic these days is to work from home or find alternative means of getting around the city — such as riding a bike, walking, or taking Transfort. Transportation struggles are increasingly on people’s minds. But so is the lack of affordable housing, worries about the changes that short term rentals might bring to neighborhoods, and concerns about equity, racism, homelessness and so much more.

It’s been just over two years since I first started writing Pedal Fort Collins. Though the site was begun in response to demand from local bicyclists that I had met in bicycling/transportation circles, it has never gained the traction that I had hoped for. The most popular articles seem to be ones that lean more towards urban development than bicycle specific concerns. Transportation is on people’s minds, but it tends to be in the much larger context of what is happening to our city overall.

The newly redeveloped Old Town Square is a lively place almost any hour of the day.
The newly redeveloped Old Town Square is a lively place almost any hour of the day.

So I’ve decided that it’s time for Pedal Fort Collins to expand to include these bigger issues that we’re facing as a community. As the author of Forgotten Fort Collins, I regularly cover the buildings, people, events, issues, and even the neckbeards of days gone by. What I’d really like to start exploring is a lot of that exact same stuff — but from Fort Collins today with an eye towards tomorrow. Who are we? How did we get here? Where might we be tomorrow based on our current trajectory? and how can we shift that trajectory a bit this way or that to avoid pitfalls that others going down that same road have already faced?

Toward that end, I’m changing the name of the site. Welcome to Urban Fort Collins. (A change in URL will hopefully come in time.) I hope you’ll all stick with me and see where this change of course might lead. But if you want to bail, I’d like to recommend Your Group Ride as another local bike-centric blog. Dan’s website is full of pertinent bike news and information and there’s a Facebook page, as well as a Facebook group, for even more bike related conversation.

Ghost signs abound in historic Old Town, Fort Collins.
Ghost signs abound in historic Old Town, Fort Collins.

I will continue to cover issues revolving around transportation of all sorts, but I’ll also be looking at architecture (How do we want our community to look? What feels like it belongs here and what doesn’t?), education (As our school district expands, are all students receiving an equitable education?), government (Are our City leaders taking us in the direction we want to go? How can residents get more involved in setting the course for our future?), and so much more.

If there’s a topic that you’d really like to see explored, let me know – meg@pedalfortcollins.com. If there’s a topic that you feel strongly about or are particularly well versed in, consider becoming a guest author.

Let’s talk about who we are and where we’re headed. Please join me in exploring Urban Fort Collins.

  • Vern Thomas

    This is great Meg! I look forward to reading this new site. You are right, FC is changing really fast now. Thanks!