CU Professor, Glen Haven Local Working With Students to Redesign Flood-Ravaged Town
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CU Professor, Glen Haven Local Working With Students to Redesign Flood-Ravaged Town

CU Professor, Glen Haven Local Working With Students to Redesign Flood-Ravaged Town
Kevin Vu

I was a freshman when the Colorado floods hit in 2013. I remember seeing up-rooted sidewalks and streets, a muddy Ferrand Field, and rushing water under the Broadway Bridge. 

I thought that Boulder had it bad. But that was nothing compared to what Glen Haven (a small town roughly 45 minutes northwest) endured. Five of the seven businesses that operated in the town were destroyed, homes were damaged beyond repair, and the town hall was ripped from its foundation. With no help from the state or even the county (Larimer), Glen Haven had to rebuild itself.

It has been over a year since the floods terrorized Glen Haven, and although the recovery efforts have been massive, they still have a long way to go. Several architecture students at CU are hoping to help recover the town to its full potential. I had the pleasure of talking with Environmental Design and Psychology major Kevin Vu, who is working on this project.

“Since the Flood in September 2013, the town of Glen Haven has been rebuilding, but they didn’t have the resources to fund or redesign their town," Vu said. "My professor, Michael Tavel, is a practicing Architect and Urban Designer and had grown up in Glen Haven, and is providing these services to the town.”

Vu chose this project to be his “Praxis (a semi-real to real project).” By their third year at CU, every Environmental Design student must choose a praxis that is presented by a professor. Vu chose this project because “it coincided with a lot of [his] design philosophies.”

So far the design team lead by Professor Tavel has “conducted participatory/community design workshops to assess what the wants, needs, and concerns are from the community members in order to move forward with design proposals.” With little to no help from the government so far, the team has “been in contact with government agencies to work jointly with the creek restoration and the restoration of the county road” to get the attention to the necessary recovery program.

This is an ongoing project and has been making progress and continues to do so with each step of the process completed. “Next week we will be meeting with Larimer County commissioners to present preliminary master plans and discuss what our limitations and opportunities are” said Vu.

But big meetings are not the only thing keeping Vu and his fellow classmates busy. “On the side we have been working on finding the right grants to apply for, creating accurate base-maps and floodplain modeling and physical modeling," Vu said. "An extensive amount of research has been done on the past history and culture of the town and surrounding area.”

This research is important because this town is over 100 years old, and it is important to keep the history in tact as much as possible while moving the town in to a more modern design. It is very inspiring that Boulder students are given the opportunity to help people in their actual community, giving Environmental Design students the experience of working on a project that is close to your heart and your community interests.

“I love the fact that we are coming in as a group of students working on a real actual project that connects us with a community that truly needs and appreciates our help," Vu said. "I believe today that Architecture’s role in to be a tool for social change, that as designers we can impact the lives of others through our knowledge and skill.”

Vu has a specific task on the project: “I am currently creating the base maps for us to begin designing upon, creating the physical topographical model of the downtown area for studying, and after we are done we will donate it to the town.” In particular, the historic wooden town hall is very important to Vu, who said, “In the near future I will be designing the town hall, which will be my primary project for the rest of the semester”.

Vu will be directly helping a historic part of the town and the culture of the community members. For Vu, this project will take the team “all semester.” But as Vu told me, the process of completely revitalizing the town “could range anywhere between 3–7 years,” mainly because of policy and funding.

It is clear the this project is important to Professor Tavel and for Vu, but there is more to this project than just grades.

“The town is extremely small with maybe a year long population of around 300," Vu said. "Their downtown area, the only communal space they had, was merely 12 buildings. There are now only 3 that are standing, with only 1 that is functioning. The community members are mostly elderly, and have grown up there in Glen Haven. The project is important because they lack the resources to get things done, when we do. To actually be of a help to a community that has been completely crushed and destroyed, we are helping these people try and get back the life they once had from losing everything to a natural disaster.”

This project is breathing life back in to a town of loyal locals who stood by this town their whole lives -- a community that has been forgotten by the general public due to its size and ignored by the government for the same reason. As for funding, this project will be funded “by grants that we apply for and receive,” according to Vu.

“They have received some government funding, but the situation is tricky because it is an unincorporated town,” he added

Ultimately the project hopes to have “applied and received grant funding, along with design proposals and construction documents for new buildings, and street and landscape master plans for the town to submit” by the end of the Spring 2015 semester. In advance of his graduation from CU in 2016, Vu says this project has given him irreplaceable experience.

“I am able to take away real world experience from what would be a normal class with just supposed problems when here we get to talk to and connect and really work with people to help them achieve what they their hopes in dreams in a time of need, which I think is, if not the most important, one of the most important things I can do as a Architect/Designer,” he said

The small town of Glen Haven is finally on its way to recovery, and I look forward to seeing the new plans and the designs from Kevin Vu at the end of this semester. For anyone who was living here at this time, you know that this flood was extremely devastating. For now, plans will continue to move forward to making Glen Haven the amazing historic town that it once was.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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