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Posted: July 01, 2010

What Denver can learn from Portland

We're going to find out

Maureen McDonald

One of the ways we at the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation promote civic engagement is through the annual leadership exchange trip.

This three-day whirlwind finds 150 of Denver's influencers visiting another metro region to explore the successes and challenges of that city. September will bring such a journey to Portland, Ore., for the Leadership Foundation's 21st annual exchange.

I have been studying metro Portland and pondering its quality-of-life attributes that attract great young talent from across the globe. The culture of commitment to the environment and sustainable practices is palpable as I walk the city streets. Urban density is defined by shorter city blocks, a robust, multi-modal transit system, infrastructure that supports bicycle commuters and a built environment shaped by very specific regional growth regulations.

The city has a vibe, a culture and a vibrancy that showcases its value of commitment to the making of places. For Portland, green living and sustainability have become a brand of sorts. I can't imagine that there are very many cities in the United States that have a Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. In April of this year, Portland received $20 million in ARRA funds for residential and commercial energy retrofits - part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program.

What is it that comes to mind when you think of the metro Denver brand? What is our own sustainable legacy? As you think about metro Portland, what do you think we can learn from leaders there? Post a comment and let us know your thoughts.

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Maureen McDonald has been the Executive Director of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation since January of 2000. Prior to joining the Leadership Foundation, Maureen worked in institutional advancement in the field of education. She directed the alumni and development teams at St. Mary's Academy and the University of Colorado at Denver. At CU Health Sciences Center, she served as Director of Community Affairs for University Hospital. She started her advancement career at her alma-mater, Washington University in St. Louis, as Associate Director of Alumni and Parent programs.

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Readers Respond

As a graduate of Lewis and Clark in Portland and a current resident of Boulder, I can speak to the vibe of both cities. Portland is artsy and functional--water fountains are public art sculptures, the transit has an old-world feel, Portlandia overlooking the city, Saturday Market. Denver has an adventure-sprawl vibe. Big spaces, views, lots of glass, bars, and Nike. I think Denver would struggle with sustainability because of the perceptions surrounding mining. Denver is much better than Portland in providing transit across regions--you won't get from Portland to Lake Oswega as easily as you get from Denver to Boulder. By Mary Casey on 2010 07 01

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