Denver addressing common big-city problem: where are the public restrooms?

In big cities like Denver, public bathrooms can be hard to find:

Downtown Denver is a busy area and a great place to visit. But it lacks one thing everyone needs – bathrooms.

“There hasn’t been a big need for it in the past but we’re looking into it now because we’ve heard from the community that there is a big need for it,” said Heather Burke of Denver Public Works.

You’re options now are to use the facilities at the business you’re patronizing, or you could do your business at your local, not so friendly, neighborhood dumpster…

In 2014 Denver Police issued 550 misdemeanor citations for urinating in public…

“It’s definitely on the city’s radar; we have a working group that’s looking at different options for public restrooms,” said Burke.

Infrastructure may not get the attention it deserves overall but shouldn’t public bathrooms also be on the radar screen?

This reminds me of the chapter in Mitchell Duneier’s Sidewalks regarding how the street vendors he is studying are treated in regards to bathrooms. The short answer is not well as they are often homeless black men and local businesses are not always inclined to view them favorably. For example, the story cited above says the Hard Rock Cafe tries to be accommodating to visitors but how would they view people like street vendors as opposed to tourists or people who appear to be more middle or upper-class?

No one-size-fits-all approach for building a downtown baseball stadium

A new study examines the divergent outcomes after the construction of new baseball stadiums in downtown Denver and Phoenix:

That Coors and Chase Fields had diverging fates is no accident but rather the result of poor planning, write Arizona State researchers Stephen Buckman and Elizabeth A. Mack in a recent issue of the Journal of Urbanism. Phoenix’s attempt to copy Denver’s success shows that sports stadiums are not a one-size-fits-all solution to downtown redevelopment efforts. On the contrary, Buckman and Mack argue, these projects must strongly consider the natural form of the city to avoid failure:

A key consideration that is often overlooked in the planning phase of these projects is the historical urban growth patterns and resulting urban form of the cities in which stadium development projects are proposed.

Buckman and Mack conducted a point-by-point review of both stadiums in their effort to determine what factors contributed most to their success, or lack thereof. They quickly found that population differences weren’t the source of the difference. Phoenix and Denver had similar demographic profiles at the time the fields were being proposed, with no marked variations in age of the potential fan base or ability to pay for tickets.

Where they began to see a clear difference was in urban form. Metropolitan Phoenix is a widespread area without a distinctive downtown core. Its satellite cities of Glendale, Tempe, and Scottsdale all have significant attractions and downtowns of their own that create what the researchers call a “centrifugal effect” on potential visitors to downtown Phoenix. By some estimates, Phoenix has the least developed downtown core in the country.

Denver, on the other hand, has a historic core that dates back to the city’s founding in 1858. In addition, the city itself is far less expansive: encompassing only about 150 squares miles, to more than 9,000 for metropolitan Phoenix. The result of this urban form, for Denver residents, is a considerably more convenient proximity to the stadium.

More broadly, it sounds like having key structures in and near the baseball stadium is very important, perhaps even more so than the particulars of the stadium itself. In other words, building a stadium with little already existing around it might have little impact on the surrounding area. Downtowns work because they are clusters of activity; there are not just office buildings but also nearby residences, restaurants, and cultural institutions that help insure a broad range of visitors to the downtown. Baseball games then become another activity that people want to go to because the games are part of the scene of the whole area.

I visited Coors Field for the first time this past August during the 2012 American Sociological Association meetings. Since I was staying near the Convention Center, we had to walk about 15 minutes to the stadium. The walk was pleasant in itself; Denver has a nice scene between these two destination points. Unlike some other major cities where the downtown is dominated by large buildings, this area has primarily low-rise buildings. People are outside walking around or eating. The stadium itself seemed to be at the edge of the downtown area closer to I-25 but it was clear plenty of other fans were also walking through the surrounding LoDo neighborhood and enjoying the night.

Another question I would ask as a baseball fan: could attendance be boosted in a more dispersed region if the team was winning? Or do parks like Wrigley Field win at attendance with little effect of record because fans want to have the experience?

By the way, here is a picture from my seat. While Coors Field might be more successful than Chase Field, the team was not good last year and there were plenty of empty seats as well as cheap seats online.


What would you bring to a “McMansion Condo Dinner Party”?

On the website The Daily Meal, I ran across an interesting location in Denver, Colorado: McMansion Condo Dinner Party.

The address given for this event, 209 Cook Street, might indeed be considered a McMansion by some. According to Zillow, the condo has these features: it was built in 1993, has 2,908 square feet, an attached garage, 2 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and the price Zestimate is around $843,000.

So what does one bring to dinner at a McMansion condo? If McMansions are often considered to be locations that are all about impressing others and showing off wealth, what food would fit this party compared to the food one might bring to a “regular” new house or a larger mansion? Perhaps if the food is prepared using stainless steel appliances and on granite countertops, this overrides the food itself…

I wish people would list the “Best Dishes” they brought to the McMansion Condo Dinner Party!

Odd and interesting sightings at ASA

1. I just caught the beginning of the Sunday night sociology jam session and I think it is a great idea. The president of the ASA started it out on the fiddle and it is nice to see some other creative outlets at the conference beyond papers and talks.

2. At a reception on Sunday night, I had a chance to sample some local cuisine: fried buffalo oysters. I believe they often go by another name: Rocky Mountain oyster. Not bad taste but a little squishy.

3. I really liked the meeting spaces and site overall. Both the Hyatt and Convention Center were spacious but not too large (as convention centers can sometimes be). And it was a plus to not have to compete with all of the slot machines and gambling like in Las Vegas last August.

4. Denver has some cool features. While there are some tall buildings, there is a lot of lower density space near these buildings including the Mall, a thriving pedestrian only (plus free public buses from one end of the street to the other) thoroughfare, and LoDo. This gave the area an intimate feel and there were plenty of people on the street both Saturday and Sunday nights. The weather is also great and consistently being able to see the mountains is a bonus.

5. One complaint: no rail service from the newer (and quite nice) airport to downtown. Riding the buses were not bad but a dedicated rail system, which one local publication said was to be completed in 2016, would be an upgrade. I wonder if ASA should only go to big cities that have such mass transit connecting the airport to the meeting location.

6. The airport is modern and spacious. It puts older airports, like Midway, to shame.

7. I noticed a board on the first floor of the Convention Center that added up the attendees by categories (faculty, grad students, etc.). If my quick math was correct, the total attendance was about 4,800. Is this down from previous years and if so, why? Is Denver not the same kind of attraction as New York (the site of next year’s meetings) or San Francisco? Are travel budgets tighter this year?

8. I like public art so I enjoyed seeing the bear looking into the Convention Center:

What’s wrong with including a little whimsy into public settings?