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Tapping Technology for Smarter Front Range Development

When it comes to innovation, urban development projects are falling behind


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Across Colorado and particularly along the Front Range, a strong economy and flourishing workforce are leading to an urban development influx. Innovation in industries ranging from tech and telecom to energy and aerospace have pushed our community to the cutting edge. However, when it comes to innovation, urban development projects are quickly falling behind. While key industries make huge leaps forward with user experience and technology, the urban landscape continues to struggle to implement groundbreaking technologies and methods.

Even with massive investments in branding, architecture and on-site design, the digital experience of an urban project is often an afterthought. Brochure websites circa 1998 remain the industry standard, rather than elegant experiences that connect people to projects and help create valuable interactions between city, developer and community.

According to a 2017 report from the Downtown Denver Project, Denver’s center city residential population has tripled since 2000. This growth leaves a major opportunity to transform the urban experience by using design and technology to improve the development process, create more equitable and community-driven projects and better connect with residents and patrons alike.

PUTTING TECH INTO ACTION

Even now, technology in the urban development market has fallen far behind other industries. Design and technology continues to be underutilized in a space that could see massive benefit from its usage. Increasingly, people are tapping the powerful computers in their pockets (and on their wrists) to connect to the world around them. People seem unable or unwilling to attend community meetings but want to be reached where they are. They’re looking for the ability to give feedback, voice opinion and learn more about their cities and neighborhoods.

Even things as simple as city systems – including parks and transportation – are stuck in old lanes when it comes to connecting their communities. Broken websites mean residents can rarely find what they’re looking for. Even so, an outdated PDF of a park system isn’t helpful. With the rise of mobile technology and mapping services, urban users and residents are seeing expansive exploration tools that leverage modern devices and are becoming widely available. Tapping into these advances will continue to become a critical value-add for developers and municipal leaders.

TECHNOLOGY CAN AMPLIFY AWARENESS

A simple website and engagement tool can become a 24/7 hub of information, data and potential feedback for stakeholders, the city and others within the community. It can take the place of, or supplement, poorly attended community meetings, traditional marketing campaigns and act as a catalyst for communicating details of the project to constituents in the early stages. This early buy-in is often critical to ensure community support, key funding and rally potential residents and customers from start to completion.

ENGAGING + RETAINING INTEREST IN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Residents and business leadership live online these days and technology is becoming increasingly important for developers and critical for city leaders and economic development agencies committed to attracting long-term business growth. With 70 percent of consumers saying technology has made it easier take their business elsewhere, it’s critical to provide a rich digital experience that builds relationships and creates loyalty with business leaders and residents. Tapping digital resources to drive engagement is critical for developers, but also important for civic leaders and economic development teams committed to attracting long-term business growth.

In the not-so-distant future, new tools and features like augmented reality (AR) are going to present the next wave of advances. Whether it’s selling a concept to stakeholders, the public, tenants, or other community members, tools like AR can allow people to not only “explore” spaces before they’re built, but also shine new light on the entire urban space surrounding them.

Technology continues to advance, change and grow to meet rising usage and demands. For developers and municipal leaders looking to ensure a strong and smart path to development in urban areas, it is becoming increasingly necessary to utilize technology and digital integration into their projects – from start to finish.


Chris Arnold is a partner at Authentic Form & Function, a web design and technology firm specializing in bringing innovative design, technology and platforms to the urban development space. Arnold lives and works in Denver, supporting a variety of clients and projects across the U.S.

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