If you’ve been checking the blog for new postings you probably think I’ve been slacking off — and you’d be right. I’m actually on vacation from July 3rd until Wednesday July 12th so there won’t be any new postings until I’m back. Please come back and visit once I return. Thanks. Dave
Universities Building Hotels and Conference Centers
It’s official: DU center up, serving
The student-run conference facility, with all its bells and whistles, lets students practice hotel and restaurant skills.
By Julie Dunn
Denver Post Staff Writer
The University of Denver today will officially dedicate its new School of Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management building, an $18 million structure that has been functioning as a student-run conference center since January.
The 46,000-square-foot building was designed as a hands-on learning facility that caters to small meetings and private events such as weddings.
“We built a management laboratory where students can practice the skills they’re learning in the classroom,” said hotel school dean Peter Rainsford.
Equipped with wireless Internet throughout, the DU center boasts features such as an executive boardroom, a full-production kitchen and a 126-person grand dining hall.
“We’re not a culinary school, we’re a management school,” said Rainsford. “Every single course will be involved in the running of this center.”
Demand is high for smaller, non-hotel meeting space, according to Michele Nichols, chief executive of Vail-based Unique Venues, which runs a database of 7,000 meeting sites.
“There are a ton of meetings out there for under 100 people,” she said. “People like to go to college campuses because it’s something different, and they usually have all the hot new technology.”
Colorado Executive Real Estate Roundtable began holding its monthly breakfast meetings at DU’s new building in January.
“It’s an impressive facility. They have all the bells and whistles,” said Mike Harrison, the group’s executive director.
While colleges and universities across the country have long profited from hosting meetings, DU is joining a prestigious group that offers dedicated, student-run conference facilities, including Cornell University and the Florida Institute of Technology. Several universities also run student-staffed hotels. Denver’s Johnson & Wales University is currently spending $16.2 million to renovate its historic Treat Hall into a 52-room student-run boutique hotel.
To help fund its operations, DU is soliciting naming rights donations from businesses and alumni. Prices range from $15,000 for a small conference room to $1.5 million for the atrium. DU’s hotel school is part of its Daniels College of Business. Daniels was recently ranked 49th in Business Week’s list of the top 50 U.S. undergraduate business schools.
Approximately 40 percent of the hotel school’s graduates go into lodging, 40 percent take jobs in the food and beverage field, and 20 percent enter related careers, such as club management and event planning.
Room With A View
Student demands are impacting university facility development.
By Jeff Conroy
June, 2006 Printer-Friendly Page
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At a recent conference, David Kirp, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, coined the term “amenities arms race” to describe the growing competition between institutions to recruit students by building quality-of-life facilities not related to direct classroom instruction. (See footnote (1) at the end of this article.) Providing these kinds of facilities in the face of shrinking state government support has re-ordered what colleges and universities are prioritizing in their capital expenditure plans, and how they are realizing such facilities by sourcing previously uncultivated revenue streams and/or teaming with private-sector partners.
According to Claire Raines (2) , kids born between 1980 and 2000, dubbed the “Millennial Generation,” are the busiest generation in the history of the United States. Their “parents and teachers micromanaged their schedules, leaving very little unstructured free time.” As the first generation to grow up “surrounded by digital media,” they are highly connected, confident, civic-minded, and culturally and ethnically tolerant. They have high expectations, fueled by “active, involved parents who often interceded on their behalf.”
On many campuses such parents are labeled “helicopter parents.” Double-incomed, generally older, and more mature than parents of previous generations, they typically afford their kids a high standard of living, with private bedrooms and baths, state-of-the-art digital electronics, fashionable clothes, and nice cars. When their kids go off to college, helicopter parents hover over college administrators to ensure their kids are provided with the best of everything–from courses and technology to living space and even roommates. As a result, Millennials are savvy and demanding customers with high expectations for both meaningful education and overall quality of life.
In response to widespread reduction in state government support of both capital and operating costs, institutions have been forced to resort to program eliminations and layoffs, tuition increases (often limited by state legislation), user fees, enrollment caps, shrinking financial aid to low-income students, and deferred facility maintenance. This has led to increased marketization of the institution–licensing, online and distance education, technology transfer (i.e. business incubation and other commercial enterprises), and foreign market expansion. The need to diversify capital funding sources has lead to developer financing, strategic alumni development, and corporate partnerships (including naming rights).
In response to these challenges, institutions are developing four primary types of projects, described below:
1. Revenue generating projects–research labs, food service, residence halls, sports facilities, conference/distance learning centers, parking decks.
2. Shared use facilities to defray costs–rec centers, libraries, assembly halls, bookstores, museums.
3. Quality of life facilities–performing arts centers, rec centers, resort-quality residence halls with apartment style amenities.
4. Sustainability — planning in both site and building facilities focusing on quality-of-life, environmental protection and lower operating costs.
Revenue Generating Projects
RESEARCH. Basic and applied research has long been a vehicle for attracting highly sought-after graduate students and faculty; it has increasingly become an attractive revenue generator. These facilities often bring together a number of disciplines across departmental lines to hopefully lead to new avenues of research and increased grant revenue.
Many institutions have healthcare-related research programs, providing low cost or free diagnostic or therapy services to their community in return for project participation.
FOOD SERVICE. The days of one-choice “mystery meat” meals have been replaced by an array of food delivery services. Food courts with a variety of vendors and menu choices supplement, or replace, standard dining hall fare. Convenience stores and marketplaces located throughout campus provide additional options, particularly where student residences are equipped with kitchen facilities.
Shared Use Facilities
RECREATIONAL. Colleges and universities program and design recreational facilities with their community in mind. Facilities are programmed for the use of everyone from infants to seniors.
LIBRARY. In addition to their traditional academic functions, libraries now reach out to a wider constituency, serving the local workforce as business information centers and the neighborhood community libraries.
ASSEMBLY. These facilities are being programmed to handle multiple functions beyond intercollegiate basketball games, including a broad array of revenue-producing community uses such as park district games, coaching clinics, concerts, speakers, movies, and business functions. Because they are shared with their communities and produce revenue, these kinds of facilities are increasingly developed in public/private partnership with city or county governments, or with for-profit developers.
Such facilities are usually sited in high-visibility locations with plenty of adjacent parking, a variety of seating configurations, food services, luxury suites, and flexible AV systems.
Quality of Life Facilities
PERFORMING ARTS. Students are no longer content with physical activity as the center of their leisure pursuits; the performing arts have become increasingly popular to college students exposed at early ages to theater, music, dance and art. This type of facility is also a revenue generator, and offers the potential for community partnering both in joint construction financing and patron support for a variety of performance events. Highly visible and accessible performing arts facilities are able to effectively market their programs to the community and encourage community patronage.
RESIDENTIAL. Contemporary student residences look more like apartments than dorms, with private bedrooms and bathrooms, in unit laundries, outdoor decks, cable TV and wireless connections. They often have a variety of shared amenities not found in traditional residence halls, such as fireplaces, community kitchens, game rooms and fitness centers, and multi-media classrooms.
The quality-of-life issues embraced by contemporary students generally focus on personal wellness, balanced with interest in environmental protection. Simultaneously, state funding has not kept pace with facility operating costs. In response, more and more institutions have turned to the multiple benefits of sustainability-based planning for both conscientious and economic reasons.
Sites planned with sustainability in mind prioritize the pedestrian over the car. Features include a grid of narrow, curved streets planned to provide multiple traffic options at safe speed, and to protect natural drainage routes; compact development preserving open space; and use of natural stormwater systems and indigenous plants.
Buildings designed with sustainability in mind are planned to minimize energy and water use; utilize low-VOC, renewable and/or recyclable materials; and provide healthy daylighting and ventilation systems. Buildings created for the research of sustainable design features are also a recent trend.
In a word, it’s all about competition. Competition for talented faculty, students, and staff. Competition for shrinking resources. Competition from each other, including institutions in other countries.
Festive Friday and Heritage Fest Saturday In Downtown Kent
Leading into the July 4th weekend, Kent kicks things off with Festive Friday downtown at the Home Savings Plaza with live music from 5 pm to 7 pm and then the movie The Princess Bride at 9 pm. Festive Friday is sponsored by the Standing Rock Cultural Arts and Downtown Innovative Community Events (aka DICE). So grab a chair and a couple of friends and come out and enjoy a warm summer evening with your Kent neighbors in a relaxed family friendly setting in the heart of downtown Kent. And Friday night is just the prelude to what’s in story for Saturday’s Heritage Festival.
I went to a couple of the outdoor summer movie showings last year before my family joined me in Kent and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the start of this season to bring them along. We’re already packed and ready to go 24 hours in advance. Our plan is to meet up with some family friends (Rich, Kelly, Brandon and Katelyn Gonos) after work at the Home Savings Plaza, grab something to eat in the restaurants along Franklin Avenue, catch some of the live music and top the night off with the movie The Princess Bride (click here to watch the trailer).
It’s been a number of years since I last saw this movie so I’m looking forward to catching it again, but best of all this time I get to watch it on Kent Parks and Rec new giant inflatable movie screen. How cool is this thing…
Thanks to donations from gracious people all over town, Kent Parks and Rec has been able to purchase this new screen as part of our effort to give the youth of all ages in Kent another reason to come spend time enjoying downtown Kent. I saw a similar screen in Toronto at their outdoor plaza theater, so now Toronto’s got nothing on us.
Saturday will be Kent’s renowned Heritage Fest. The Heritage Fest holds special meaning for me, not because it’s an amazing downtown event, but because it marks my 1 year anniversary as Kent’s City Manager. Just about this time last year I rolled into town and Dan Smith with the Chamber tried to convince me that the City was throwing a party in my honor and they were calling it the Heritage Festival. So just last week Dan gave me a heads up on my one year anniversary party that he had arranged that again he was calling the Heritage Fest.
Regardless of the reason for the party (do you really need a reason to party?), it was a great time for all ages last year and I’m sure this one will be even better. So whatever you’re into I’m pretty sure you’ll find it in downtown Kent this weekend. And although this event has become so popular that it brings thousands of people downtown, it is also so well run that it manages to keep that small town charm and more personalized feel that is all Kent.
If food, music, sights, sounds and smells aren’t enough to bring you down during the day, you definitely don’t want to miss the nighttime fireworks show. It’s a terrific show that will set the mood leading up to July 4th.
I’ll see you there.
Kent Bicentennial Plan: A Blueprint for Tomorrow
Before applying for the position of City Manager in Kent I did my homework on-line to see what I could learn about what Kent was thinking and where it wanted to go as a community. I invested that time because when it comes to an executive position like City Manager it’s all about the fit between the person and the city so I wanted to try to get a read on how well I would fit in Kent.
As a prospective City Manager you are looking for a community that is thinking about its future and is working off of a plan to get there. I don’t want to waste my time and energy on a place that could care less about its future. That’s why Kent had me at page 1 of the Bicentennial Plan (Download the Executive Summary). I knew then that Kent was a place I wanted to be a part of.
Now, with a year under my belt in Kent I’ve learned that Bicentennial Plan is not universally admired which is unfortunate because it is a product to be proud of, and to those outside the city it is looked upon as a terrific example of how a community can come together to co-create a vision. It’s impressive not just to us city manager types, but trust me, business executives look for that kind of stuff too. If they’re going to make a business investment in a community they want to know that community takes it’s future seriously. To that end, the Bicentennial Plan is more than a long term strategy for sustainable prosperity it is also one of the most powerful marketing tools available to us today.
But don’t just take my word for it, consider the fact that a team of nationally recognized experts at the International City Manager Association (ICMA) reviewed community plans from all over the country and then awarded Kent the top honor (see award summary) for cities with populations between 10,000 and 50,000. Out of hundreds of cities that fall in that category, Kent is #1. Regardless of whether you like everything in the Plan or not, that is an accomplishment worth celebrating — and frankly if we’re not highlighting this national recognition in everything we do and leveraging that to our marketing advantage, then shame on us.
To this day, Kent city staff are still being asked to speak at national conferences about the Bicentennial Plan. We get inquiries from cities all over the country asking for advice on how to replicate our work and Kent is featured as a “best practice” for community planning. Yet here in our own backyard the Bicentennial Plan is not only underappreciated it is a frequent target for criticism rather than the critical acclaim Kent is receiving everywhere else for it.
How did this happen?
Since I’m the new guy, the best I can offer is my third party speculation which means it is not necessarily any more valuable than the other 27,835 different answers you’d get if you talked to each city resident but since I’ve heard close to 8,221 of them perhaps I can offer a useful summary. It seems to me that there is a misunderstanding about what the Bicentennial Plan is and what it is not.
It is a vision not a project going out to bid for tomorrow.
It is a process that tried to translate aspirations to paper. It is not a contract written in blood and etched in stone.
It is a catalyst not a conclusion.
It was a way to engage our community creativity that tries to move us forward and use that forward momentum to bring positive change.
I emphasize these points because it seems that some people saw the high quality of the product and assumed it was a done deal. They jumped from vision to real live project in about 4 seconds and immediately assumed the bulldozers would be heading down the street the next day. Of course that couldn’t be further from the truth but once that seed was planted it was hard to pull that weed out by its roots.
So instead of working from a blueprint for building community as the Plan was originally conceived, some people have tried to reduce the Plan into a series of politically motivated platitudes that we let divide us rather than unify us. I get that it’s really hard to get thousands of people to agree on anything and I accept that the Plan can not make everyone happy. But to me this isn’t an exercise in happiness, this is the practice of leadership. This is about looking within and being honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge what’s working in our hometown and what’s not. It’s having the wisdom to know that sometimes honoring our legacy means making changes to the way we’ve always done things because times have changed around us while we’ve been busy reminiscing and now what we’ve always done isn’t doing it anymore. I was always told that “when you’re riding a dead horse, it’s time to dismount.”
As a newcomer, it’s been quite confusing to hear so many people vent their distress over Kent’s economic challenges and demand more leadership from their city government in one breath and then reject the very thing that was developed to give the city the direction it needed to respond to its economic challenges. I’m not saying the Bicentennial Plan is perfect but you can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving and the Plan gives us something to move to.
The practical side of me says “let’s get started” and accept the fact that we may not agree on our exact destination yet but it’s clearly not where we are today so let’s take some inspiration and guidance from the Plan and build the momentum we’re going to need to get wherever it is we finally decide to go. I have enough faith in our collective will and capabilities as a community to believe that together we’ll figure out where we’re going and how to get there once we get started.
Kids For Kent, Part 2
In a blog posting back in early May (May 3, Youth of All Ages) I showcased artwork by Kent elementary school kids that illustrated their favorite Kent spots. They made pictures of the Standing Rock, PufferBelly, parks, their schools, the library, the river and much more. Not to be outdone elementary kids from St. Patricks Catholic school sent the Mayor letters thanking him for their favorite things in Kent. Those letters have some great insights that only a kid could see — so I encourage you to take a minute to see what our kids love about Kent.