9-R should weigh building options

(The following is a letter that was sent to the 9-R School Board and copies to the Telegraph.)

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments for the future use of the 9-R Admin Building as the city of Durango considers its options. I grew up in Durango and was shaped by the education structures the community is fortunate to have. I became interested in the process of public policy- and decision-making in the city, which has resulted in a passion for lifelong learning as a planner. I understand the City’s need for updated infrastructure and the importance of prioritizing public health, safety and welfare in the community. That being said, I encourage you to carefully consider the legacy that you want to leave the future learners, professionals and families of Durango. 

I strongly believe the Shaws’ history of civic involvement, sustainability, community-led creativity, activation of space and ability to maintain historic structures has benefited the community of Durango immeasurably. I advocate for their involvement with the future design and use of the 9-R Admin Building site. By activating and preserving this beautiful relic of Durango’s history, I believe the community (past, present and future) and its visitors will benefit. What the Shaws have proposed is an exciting opportunity that would otherwise not be possible to achieve without their leadership and drive to better this town.

One of Durango’s assets is its ability to carefully preserve the stories of its foundational past while sustainably planning for a future that will stand out and benefit the people that represent the city. Prioritizing our teachers, makers and future artists is one way that the city can continue this legacy and maintain its goals of sustainability, connectivity and mixed-use active spaces. My sister and I were both selected (in separate years) to have pieces of art hung in the 9-R Admin Building. This was the first opportunity I had to get to see and briefly experience the building; years later, the idea of teachers and leaders of our community having an opportunity to live in a building that has shaped the education systems of Durango is incredible. A creative opportunity to provide affordable deed-restricted housing is a responsibility that the community cannot continue to pass along; there needs to be a fundamental shift in how we consider the use of land including physical buildings and local housing. 

Durango has immense assets and unique, creative partnerships that can locally address ongoing infrastructure, housing and employment projects. The Admin Building represents much more than a 4.3-acre parcel. The future use of this building sets the tone for how the character of Durango and its collaboration with stakeholders will evolve. Durango is unique, and I believe that the voices of the community hold a special place in the public process. I hope that 9-R takes its time in carefully considering the weight of this decision and the impact that it can have on the community at large.

– Lily Oswald, Community Development Coordinator, City of Ouray