Planner says Los Alamos has 'good bones'

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County: Osborn brings experience in redevelopment and urban renewal

By Arin McKenna

Whether it is through his work or in his spare time, Dan Osborn believes in giving back to the community. He is looking forward to doing that as associate planner for the Los Alamos Community and Economic Development Department.  

“It’s always exciting to come into a community and be able to hear what the community wants,” Osborn said. “One of the best parts of being an urban planner is getting to hear and understand how the community sees itself and then working to provide the tools to the community through the planning process to create that community.

“It’s one of the things that make urban planning so special. It’s why I went into this position. It’s a way to serve and give back and to work with the community to provide what it wants from an urban design standpoint.”

Osborn started with the county Oct. 15. He brings nine years of experience in the public sector, working his way up from planning tech to planner II for the City of Westminster, Colo., during his eight years there and spending an additional year as planner II for Jefferson County, Colo.

During his time in Westminster, Osborn helped develop both commercial and residential design guidelines and standards and worked with redevelopment of older parts of the city.

“We had some real aging infrastructure across the board and were able to use those design guidelines to partner with businesses, partner with the community and develop plans and designs that echoed what the community wanted to see as they moved forward and as they grew,” Osborn said. “I think that’s one of the special skill sets that I can hopefully bring to bear in my position here.”

One of the projects Osborn was assigned to had an impact the entire Denver metro area.

“I did the review for a couple of Wal-Marts, which were kind of a big deal in Westminster,” Osborn said. “They were redevelopment, where we took an existing center that was built in the 1950s and had some serious blight issues and were able to negotiate one of the better looking Walmarts in the metropolitan area.

“It was the first all brick Wal-Mart in the Denver area, with some really nice architectural façade features. They went on to use that as the model, because once other communities saw that they could do that type of work, they actually started requiring it. So now they’ve replicated that in a lot of different parts of the Denver metro area. So it was a big success for the city.”

In 2007, Osborn took a job with Banks and Gesso, LLC, a private land use consulting firm. A year later, the economic downturn hit the firm and Osborn was laid off.

“I kind of went through the meat grinder there for a few years. There are a lot of good planners that went through a similar time,” Osborn said. “But it allowed me to go back and get my masters degree, something that I’ve always wanted to do. So I used it as a positive and went back and finished that up and was able to graduate with straight As.”

Osborn’s master’s degree from the University of Denver is in environmental policy and management, with a focus on sustainability and energy policy. His undergraduate degree in land use is from Metropolitan State College in Denver.
Osborn is unsure how his knowledge of sustainability and energy policy may be put to use here, but is glad to see that sustainability is valued by the county.

“Certainly from a community development standpoint, an urban planning standpoint, it’s key,” Osborn said. “You’ve got to have a community that’s got the balance, that’s able to both grow and sustain. Oftentimes that means redevelopment, to utilize those resources and find ways to repurpose and keep them shiny and new so people want to utilize the infrastructure.”

Osborn said that the Los Alamos area had been on his radar for a long time when he saw the job posting. Osborn grew up in the Denver area, a fourth generation Coloradan. He sees a lot of similarities between Los Alamos and Denver before that city’s growth spurt in the mid-1990s.

“I love the West, and I really liked what I saw down here, I really liked the community,” Osborn said. “The community itself has really good bones as far as the infrastructure that’s here, and there seems to be a willingness to work. So that coupled with the availability of the job and wanting to get back in the market, it was a really nice fit.”

During his free time, Osborn is throwing himself into exploring the local area and getting to know local businesses.

“Every week I try to venture out and find a new place to try and support those businesses,” Osborn said. “I think that’s important. It’s an ethic that needs to be embedded in the community. It may as well start with me.”

Osborn’s belief in helping his community extends into his free time. He spent his first weekend here helping to build snow fences at the Pajarito Mountain ski area.

“I am looking for those opportunities where I can volunteer and give back a little bit to the community,” Osborn said. “If you’re going to be here, it’s all in.”

Osborn is looking to create something of a legacy.

“I would love to look back 20 years from now and say, hey, we really did something special in Los Alamos, and were able to create the community that everybody wanted, and it’s a place that people want to come, stay, live, grow.”