What will Denver be like in 2030?
The average resident of Denver’s future is more likely to be elderly, more likely to be Latino, more likely to hail from a filled-in Stapleton neighborhood, and more likely to have a rapid transit pass in a back pocket.
Following close behind on the sidewalk will be the Less Likelys. A typical Denver dweller will be less likely to drive a car, less likely to work all day on an urban office block, and less likely to have a traditional public school education.
Planners love to focus on the eco-friendly Home of the Future, or a revitalized Union Station, or an airport that morphs into a spaceport. But more relevant to daily life in Denver circa 2030 is who will occupy that Home of the Future and how will they spend their time.
Some of those homes will certainly be crowded.
Aging services officials envision the city’s growing elderly population moving in together — they want to clarify local zoning laws to allow six to eight unrelated adults to live in one home. With baby boomers hoping to avoid institutionalized nursing homes, planners want neighborhoods friendly to groups of healthy seniors living together near shops and services.
Other futurists see daytime neighborhoods filling up with younger adults, as well. Working from a home office, connected to a headquarters in a faraway city, is a key job model that will only grow, said Thomas Frey of Louisville’s DaVinci Institute.
The U.S. Patent Office is one burgeoning example, Frey said. In its “hoteling” program, well-paid patent examiners work remotely four days a week and come in to the home office only one day a week. That would allow workers to stay in a Denver neighborhood and then take a flight to Washington, D.C., when called in.
“How cool is that?” Frey asked. The pattern will change economic development efforts, as well — instead of trying to land one big corporate headquarters, Frey said, Denver should send recruiting vans to park outside Google or Microsoft offices on the West Coast and lure tele-workers for Rocky Mountain living.
“We can attract a lot of the best and brightest to come to this state,” he said.
How those employees got their education will have changed, too. Denver may become less dependent on large elementary and high school buildings, as the world of Web-based curriculum explodes. The best teachers in any field will write online coursework where progress and accomplishments are easily tracked. Students and parents could adapt their schedules to family needs.
“Eventually we will get to: any topic, anywhere, at any time,” Frey said.
Not all this home-based living of the future will focus on high technology. Architect and futurist Cindy Frewen Wuellner advocates facing the future with a nice, heavily weathered 2×12 plank.
Climate change in the Southwest will mean hotter summers, less precipitation and more volatile storms. Gardens will alternate between baking sun and stormwater floods that will strain city drainage systems. Wuellner’s favorite solution is a plank barrier around the homeowner’s property that stops water long enough to seep into lawns and landscape, greening the block while preventing flooding around the city.
“The limitation on development will be water,” she said. “We treat oil and gas as if those are the limitations on growth, but we do have alternatives to those. We have a real problem with water.”
The Denver Regional Council of Governments also worries about who will be doing all of Denver’s work in 2030. The baby boom generation is beginning to retire, leaving huge knowledge and experience gaps in the workforce. Meanwhile, those aging retirees will demand large numbers of recreation teachers, home health aides and financial planners.
With metro agencies already straining to provide services like Meals on Wheels to existing seniors, imagine the stress when that needy portion makes up 23 percent of the population, said DRCOG’s Jill Locantore.
Immigration opponents may change their minds if society needs the Social Security and payroll taxes of outside workers in order to pay civic bills, added DRCOG’s Erik Sabina.
“It’s unclear how the economy will adjust” to those mismatches, Locantore said.
Via Denver Post