The Evolution of the Block Pattern: Colorado Springs’ Platte Avenue

Block patterns on aerial photographs can be quite telling in the evolution of cities.  The image below can even appear as a timeline for Colorado Springs in the way that it has developed.  The image below is of Platte Avenue in Colorado Springs, downtown Colorado Springs is just off the image to the left (west). You see the block pattern highlighted with 1/2 mile diameter circle shading.  The blocks on the left hand side were laid out on the historic grid with a 400-ft block length.  400-ft for the length of a block is execessive for most cities, though in Colorado Springs this remains among the shortest of the block lengths.  Notice the high level of connectivity and predictability of the pattern.  Historically cities were laid out in this pattern.  The particular area highlighted was generally developed between 1900 and 1930, which is common in most cities which developed prior to World War II.

A Timeline of Development in Colorado Springs along Platte Avenue. Base Aerial Image from MSR Maps.

The next 1/2 mile diameter circle represents an area where development began to demand greater block lengths and a greater response to auto-trensic development.  Predictability and the frequency of intersections decreases significantly. In conjunction, disorienting streets were also introduced.  This particular area highlighted by the circle was generally developed between 1930 and 1960 (before, during and following World War II).

Imaged Previosly Prepared for Presentation. Original Aerial Credit: Bing.com

The third highlighted circle on the aerial above represents a neighborhood located directly behind the Citadel Crossing Shopping Center, which was recently vacated, partially scraped and is to be replaced in the future with a Lowe’s at the request and desire of Colorado Springs’ City Council and Economic Development Corporation.  The subject of the Lowe’s replacing a strip mall is a completely different subject, but regardless this area represents the ‘discovery’ and wide-spread introduction to the cul-de-sac along the corridor.  There were other cul-de-sacs in the region prior to this, but not to the frequency of this neighborhood.  Much of this has to do with transportation engineering/planning practices after WWII. As our transportation planning has ‘progressed’ in moving the automobile, our city planning and block structures has regressed. The statement ‘you can’t get there from here’ became commonplace.  This particular neighborhood circle was almost entirely developed in the 1960’s.

You may have noticed that World War II timeline made an enormous impact on the way development occured and generally how the majority of United States’ civilization lives today.  The primary contributor to this mass exodus from our cities to suburban developments was the opportunity presented by the federal government in the GI Bill for the returning soldiers.  A portion of this bill provided low interest, zero down payment mortgages to the returning servicemen of the war. This bill enabled our war heroes the opportunity of the ‘American Dream’, at least it was the ‘American Dream’ during the 20th Century.

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