An Open Letter to CNU

CNU 21 - button graphic - FINAL (02-14-12)Having spent five years (2008 – 2013) working on and preparing for CNU 21 and then seeing that work end was a bittersweet experience.  Thousands of selfless hours of volunteer time were put in by dozens of individuals that made up our Local Organizing Committee.  There was also tremendous support given by local, regional, and national partners.  I wanted to share some of my thoughts, while they are still somewhat fresh in my mind, regarding CNU 21.

Anyone who knows me personally will be able to verify that I am an advocate for and a passionate supporter of new urbanism.  My views on the built environment changed before I even knew what new urbanism was when I found myself at The Kentlands during the summer of 1995.  It was at that point of seeing The Kentlands that I first came to realize that there was an alternative way of developing that could yield much better results.  What I didn’t understand at the time was how.

SLC TransectSome of my hopes in working to bring CNU 21 to Salt Lake City had a lot to do with my personal belief in Salt Lake City as a great American city.  While Salt Lake City is typically maligned because of its large blocks and wide streets I have a view of these assets that I am hopeful all those that attended CNU 21 now also recognize.  Quoting Andres Duany, “The problem with Salt Lake City is that it’s not today what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had in mind.  Salt Lake City’s original blocks and grid were infected with the DNA of sprawl.”  When you can identify the original intent in the layout of Salt Lake City one can see the efficiency, flexibility, and intelligence in its design.  With this recognition, next comes the identification of potential for future application.  I saw this desire come to fruition through the attention that was paid by many of the brilliant minds of CNU.  CNU wholeheartedly embraced Salt Lake City, and for that I say thank you!

I was also desirous to generate a regional dialogue that could help to shape our future.  Having attended many previous CNU conferences I am aware of the impacts for change that can be generated in the host city.  I look, for example, at our Rocky Mountain neighbor to the east (Denver, CO) which has hosted CNU twice and has reaped positive benefits for having done so.  I am hopeful that similar impacts can be experienced along Utah’s Wasatch Front for having been the benefactor of serving as CNU 21’s host city.  Ultimately, the responsibility associated with creating positive changes from the influence of CNU 21 falls on the shoulders of those who call Utah home.  With all of those, who call Utah home, that either helped organize CNU 21 or simply attended it is our duty to take what we have learned and work towards applying the lessons we received.CNU Utah - logo

Those lessons are beginning to be applied as efforts are in full swing to form a local chapter of CNU here in Utah.  This is quite surreal to me, because when I moved back to Utah in 2007, after spending seven years in Arizona, I was CNU member #5.  Today, there are over 80 members!  As we have been meeting, in conjunction with our local chapter organizing efforts, I have been truly inspired by the desire to work for change.  Much of this I credit to the generosity of so many people that have been so willing to give without even a thought as to what they might receive in return.  I commend the “open source” nature of CNU and those who, like me, are drawn to its principles and willingness to give as they have been given to.


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