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Vital Projects Fund Provides Start-up Funding for New Sustainable Community Economic Development Clinic

December 16, 2008

Colorado Law School recently received financial support from the Vital Projects Fund to launch an innovative, interdisciplinary CU clinic course for law, business, and planning students to participate in real-world sustainable community economic development projects.  This new Sustainable Community Development (SCD) Clinic will provide free, comprehensive professional services for underdeveloped Colorado communities to pursue economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable opportunities.

The SCD Clinic builds on Colorado Law’s nationally recognized expertise in entrepreneurship, real estate, and environmental and energy law and policy. In addition, the Clinic combines the Law School’s expertise with those of the Leeds School of Business and the School of Architecture and Planning. Several community development groups and organizations have been unanimous in their support for the Clinic and some have offered potential partners on clinic projects. These groups have included:  the Urban Land Conservancy, Enterprise Community Partners, the Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Enterprise Fund, Boulder Housing Partners, Housing Colorado, and Colorado Legal Services, among others.  Examples of the type of cases such a clinic would accept include:


·A single mother completes a nine-hour work day and looks forward to having dinner with her young children.  But instead of going directly home, she must ride the bus an extra thirty minutes to get to the nearest supermarket.  There is no grocery store in her struggling neighborhood.  Or childcare.  Or after-school activities.  Or job training.  What would it take to convince a developer to build commercial space in the neighborhood?  Is there a local community member who might want to run her own licensed day care business?  How might the community come together to cluster employment opportunities, retail needs, and vital community services in a compact, revitalized, walkable neighborhood?

·A community struggles to meet the demand for affordable housing.  The municipality may have some land available for new housing, but it does not have the funds for building and the land may need environmental remediation.  The community would like assistance researching funding opportunities, and wants to ensure that any new housing is “green” as well as affordable.  What kind of funds might be available to the community?  How does the community find out how to build green and still stay within budget?  How can urban brownfields be reclaimed safely?  What are the contours of the new housing development – might it include uses other than just housing?

·A small business that for years supplied parts for local industry now faces closure as the local economy shifts.  While traditional industry increasingly faces challenges, new businesses are opening that build on Colorado’s energy economy boom.  How might local entrepreneurs, particularly in communities in need, tap into these emerging markets?  Where might they find seed capital and training to retool for the sustainable energy economy? 
Questions regarding the SCD Clinic should be directed to Professor Deborah Cantrell.