Residency: East Colfax study, Stefan Chavez-Norgaard and Victor Chen, closing presentation March 12, 2024, 6pm-8pm

Counterpath is excited to host a residency, taking place in February and March, 2024, for Stefan Chavez-Norgaard and Victor Chen, who will be researching urban planning policy affecting the East Colfax neighborhood, where Counterpath is located in Denver. They will have a closing event March 12, 2024, 6pm-8pm, details here.

Researching how local-government planning, fiscal, and urban policies have affected the community served by the East Colfax Neighborhood Association, historically and in the present, Stefan Chavez-Norgaard and Victor Chen seek to learn from local residents and others how current developments such as the East Colfax Urban Renewal Area and East Area Plan may impact the community in the future. The specific historic, contemporary, and future local-government policies they study will be informed by engagements with and feedback from residents and resident associations. However, possible issues and policies may include: housing supply and affordability; the provision of public goods and services (streetlights, urban furniture, water, sewer); local-government property assessment and taxation; commercial development and anti-displacement; comprehensive (master) planning and neighborhood or precinct planning; and/or zoning and land-use controls.

Aligned with the mission of Counterpath, this research residency is intended to critically engage planning and other local government policies as they touch down in a specific community. The research residency is also grounded in goals of learning with and alongside residents about the impacts of those policies on the community geographically centered around Colfax Avenue between Quebec St. and Yosemite St. They expect research outputs produced from the residency to elucidate the historical afterlives of top-down planning and other 20th century policy regimes that shaped this neighborhood. Drawing on our their previously published Mapping Inequality work, they aim to provide historical context into how issues such as redlining and racist planning impacted the East Colfax neighborhood, and continue to do so today.

Specific Activities:

  • Deep dive into planning and local government policies and programs affecting these communities, including property tax assessment and other programs, engaging their recent history and today (see: East Colfax URA’s housing value trend analysis with assessor data)
  • Critical study of specific historical plans and planning processes that affected the neighborhoods and areas of this part of Denver, and of contemporary planning and governance issues affecting the areas (see: the recent Colfax rezoning proposal, Colfax Ave Design Overlay-8, Bus Rapid Transit project est. completion 2026 at earliest).
  • Planning, hosting, and convening community members for an event in March 2024 presenting their current desk research to-date and seeking to learn from local residents and resident associations about the neighborhood and specific planning and local-government policies of interest to them.

Stefan Chavez-Norgaard is a PhD Candidate in Urban Planning at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP). His research interests include urban and planning theory, local-government and planning law, and mixed-methods research focused on planning practice and urban governance in the related but distinct late-liberal contexts of South Africa and the United States. Stefan is passionate about participatory democracy and how cities’ public/private arrangements affect equitable urban development. His dissertation examines areas of apartheid-era forced relocation in South Africa and how master plans have been implemented and repurposed in these geographies by residents and planners.

Victor Chen is a community researcher and local musician. He works as a Finance and Research Analyst at the Colorado Department of Local Affairs where he works with local governments all over Colorado on financial issues such as budgeting, property tax, and water system financing. He volunteers with two local nonprofits: the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, which serves our immigrant and refugee community, and also Soul Stories, whose mission is to use storytelling to facilitate human connection, personal healing, and social change. He is also a pianist and keyboardist who has performed at local venues such as Mozart’s Lounge, Dazzle, and on-air on KUVO.