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Building a Greener, Healthier Downtown Denver Fellowship

Saturday, June 1st to Saturday, August 31st, 2019 (ET)



Project title: Building a Greener, Healthier Downtown Denver
Organization name: The Nature Conservancy / Denver Downtown Partnership

Country and city/region: Denver, CO
Start/end dates: can be flexible. Check with The Nature Conservancy.


The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is the world’s largest environmental organization in the world whose mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.  In the United States, TNC has a presence in all 50 states, including more than 50 years of conservation history in Colorado.  The Nature Conservancy launched a Cities conservation program in the Colorado chapter in 2017, with the goal of improving the health and well-being of people living in Colorado’s cities by enhancing urban biodiversity and natural open space, integrating nature as a solution to critical urban challenges, and catalyzing meaningful and enriching connections between people, nature, and our communities.

Great cities are built by people. The creators of industry, makers of place. Visionaries for what’s next. At the Downtown Denver Partnership, we are building with vision.

We believe the horizon of a great city is always growing, always improving. We believe our city is only as strong as the center. And we know that a thriving, strategic evolution only happens when every voice steps up to the mic. To make the most of it, to make meaningful impact, we must plan with purpose. With a bias for action, we invest for tomorrow, execute for today. Building our center city, making our place. The Partnership has for more than 60 years, convened, collaborated and led a bold vision to build an economically powerful center city that is recognized for being prosperous, walkable, diverse, distinctive, and green. 

The Challenge

Denver regularly ranks among the lowest cities in America for urban tree canopy averaging between 15% to 19% cover across the city, with an estimated tree canopy cover of less than 4% in Downtown Denver.  With thousands of people now living and working in the city’s core, Downtown Denver is the economic and residential center of the Mountain West region.  Like many other cities, Denver faces urban challenges such as heat stress, poor air quality, stormwater management, and lack of access to nature, which are exacerbated in highly impervious areas with little, natural respite.  As people continue to move to Denver and climate change increases heat in the city, Denver is primed to be a leader and to continue to demonstrate integral connections between quality of life, economic vitality, good health, and access to trees and nature. 

The Denver Downtown Partnership has launched two exciting projects that will help create a robust and resilient tree canopy in downtown Denver: the Urban Forest Initiative and the 5280 Loop.  The Urban Forest Initiative is an effort to build and grow the urban tree canopy in downtown Denver by identifying areas for more trees, testing new tree infrastructure, and significantly increasing investment in tree planting in the urban core.  The 5280 Loop is a bold, visionary project that will transform how the public right-of-way is used in Downtown Denver. The 5280 Loop will link neighborhoods and connect people by reimagining underutilized streets into the essential Downtown experience uniting urban life with Colorado’s outdoor culture.  The 5280 Loop will prioritize people, health, culture, and nature that will connect many vibrant and diverse city center neighborhoods through the great urban outdoors creating a powerful sense of place in Downtown Denver.

The Nature Conservancy and the Denver Downtown Partnership are partnering to increase tree canopy and improve quality of life in the downtown Denver area.  The candidate will have an opportunity to work with both The Nature Conservancy and Downtown Denver Partnership staff on highly-visible projects that will create a vision for Denver and the region for decades to come.  The projects would likely entail the following activities:

  • Work with The Nature Conservancy, Downtown Denver Partnership, the University of Colorado – Denver, Denver City Forestry, and other partners to create a comprehensive inventory of downtown Denver trees, including a prioritized list of areas needing more greening, based on factors like heat impact, equity, mobility, and other variables.
  • Develop an implementation plan for the Downtown Denver Partnership and the City to invest in high-impact trees in downtown Denver and along the 5280 Loop.

The Nature Conservancy and the Downtown Denver Partnership will be able to provide space in TNC offices and Downtown Denver Partnership offices, access to and support from staff in both organizations, including experts in GIS, urban forestry, biology, urban nature, planning, and economic development.

Potential Secondary Projects
  • Support The Nature Conservancy’s pilot community-led, block-scale urban greening project in the Globeville / Elyria / Swansea neighborhoods by working with community partners to help prioritize and implement concentrate natural infrastructure investments in vulnerable neighborhoods.  This project could pair closely with the downtown Denver work and could be emphasized more in the summer’s tasks if of greater interest to the candidate.
  • Work with University of Colorado – Denver partners to develop a low-cost and reliable method for assessing local temperatures to help understand and prioritize urban greening, and possibly apply methodology to areas in downtown Denver and the 5280 Loop.
This project is a rare opportunity to work with both a leading environmental organization and Downtown Denver’s visionary city builders, on a project with direct applied outcomes that will also allow the student to be outside, interacting with downtown Denver for a significant portion of the internship.

Ideally, the candidate will have some, if not all, of the following skills, experience, interest, and/or qualifications:

• Experience in urban nature, forestry, economic development, architecture, design, and/or planning.
• Experience in planning and urban design as it relates to community development and placemaking.
• Experience and skills using and creating mapping products in Arc GIS, Adobe CS, and/or other similar mapping/graphic design platforms to both track and document data, as well as producing intuitive and visually compelling assessments.
• Interest in and ability to be outdoors in the city, experiencing the projects first-hand.
• Desire to help better integrate nature and the built environment.
CausesEconomic Development Environment Sustainability
Sustainable Development Goals