Building Community

The Future of 68,000

Building Community through Building Healthy Places

In late 2016, Matt Kubus represented CRP at the Urban Land Institute interactive workshop on Building Healthy Places. Funded through the Colorado Health Foundation, a panel of 30 local community members gathered to discuss the future development of a local neighborhood area that represents 1/10th of the Springs population.

Southeast Colorado Springs spans a 12 square mile area and is home to over 68,000 people. This number embodies 12% of the population making it one of the largest neighborhood zones in the city limits. However, this zone is faced with some severe challenges in need of attention: high vacancy rates, unemployment, serious crime and and an need for sense of place are just a few of the hurdles the Southeast corridor faces every day. The  primary focus of this BHP Workshop was to envision the future for these 68,000 of Southeast Colorado Springs and the steps we need to take as a city to benefit this community area and the quality of living for its inhabitants. Concepts that were aimed to be addressed in the workshop were access to healthy food options, active transit, development of the economy, public safety and overall cohesion. 

The workshop's end result was a culmination of innovative opportunities for positive engagement, such as:

  • Developing mixed use space and implementing the job training associated with it

  • Integrate 600 acres of new housing options

  • Explore the value of 'Pop-Up' events 

  • Implement a Summer Festival

  • Create a 'Neighborhood Clean-Up' organization for volunteers

  • Install community-accessible wifi

  • Start a Youth Entrepreneurship program

  • Build a community-run greenhouse

  • Teach culinary seminars throughout the area to instill healthy eating & home cooking skills

Upon the workshop's completion, a final deliverable was assembled with all the research, discussions and opportunity ideas collaborated on by the panel. By clicking the document cover below, you can see the report study in its entirety:

THROWBACK THURSDAY: from 2 Months to 20 Years

20 years ago... in 1997...

Crowds were flocking by the thousands to see Titanic in theaters...

The Spice Girls were the biggest thing to happen to pop music...

The average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.22...

Beanie Babies were taking over the world...

And Holly Burns was starting her work with CRP Architects...

With initially pursuing a medical focus in her schooling, the path of her life later drew her to the field in which she'd impact others through a different vessel. The vessel of a building.

What began as taking on a few months of contractual work in 1997 under CRP's founder, Leland Reece, evolved into a 20-year investment in the world of architectural design. While it was a preliminary 'stab' at her interest in the architectural realm, Holly was hooked from the beginning by her passion for education environments and developing innovative solutions through the built world. 

During her time at CRP, her involvement has spanned the planning, design and production of 50+ school facilities across the state of Colorado, ranging from Steamboat Springs to Colorado Springs. In the last year alone, Holly was acting Program Planner and Project Manager for over $130 million in education projects along the Front Range. A truly impressive accomplishment. 

A passion for education...

Even outside the office, Holly continues to demonstrate a deeply-rooted value for education. 12 years of her career has also been given to Pikes Peak Community College through her role as an architecture department adjunct professor. And she's a model example of continuing education and that it's never too late to achieve personal goals. Alongside an accomplished 20 year career, she took the challenge head-on to test for her official license through NCARB. This involves the study preparation and the taking of 7 intensive tests on field subjects regulated by a national accreditation board. We are proud to announce that she has officially earned her Architect License for the state of Colorado.

It's truly inspiring to see what can happen when life's path takes you on an unexpected route. Holly has been known to joke in the office that, "(She) was only supposed to be here a few months. It's now been a few decades!" And what she's accomplished in that time has transformed communities and impacted generations for another 20, 40, even 60 years to come. Here are just a few examples of her community impact and the schools that would look very differently if Holly had only worked at CRP "for a few months"...

THROWBACK THURSDAY: High School Musical - Katy Perry Edition

As designers, it's a commonality that some of our favorite moments in creating a new building is seeing how it inevitably gets used over time - witnessing the unique, sometimes unexpected character that people bring to the space once our job is done.

However, no one could have predicted the 'fierce' way in which students of Lakewood High School would bring vibrant life to their new facility in Lakewood, CO. 

So, what does this have to do with Katy Perry?

We'll get into that. But first, let's flashback a little further into some CRP project history...

Back in early 2000, CRP was brought on to help re-imagine the future for Lakewood HS in Jefferson County Public School District. In 2002, we completed an auditorium remodel for the nearly 40+ year old facility. However, this was the preceding preparation for the monumental remodel/addition project that would begin construction four years later. In 2007, we completed a $32 million redesign of the school which included 126,000 sf of additions and 110,000 sf of remodeled spaces. The LHS Tigers were ecstatic to show some tiger pride for their new home and the start of a new era for the JEFFCO school.

It wasn't until 6 years later, that expressing their school pride would not only 'go viral' but would also land the attention of the one and only 21st century pop-star, Katy Perry.

In 2013, Perry announced a nation-wide competition asking high schools to submit their own music video rendition of her (at the time) recently released song, 'Roar'. The competition was not only used to gain hype for her album release later that year but also to inspire students to let their inner ROAR be heard. She wanted to see the power in numbers as well as the creative, story-like interpretations of the song's message.

Being Tigers themselves, Lakewood High School seized the opportunity to let their roar be heard around the world. Little did we know, our newly renovated facility would become the backdrop for this student-lead production as well as aid the school's creative concept in how the video would be filmed - in a SINGLE, continuous shot.

Take a look for yourself... 

The Lakewood HS video submission was an instant crowd favorite as it not only physically involved the whole school building, it involved the ENTIRE student body. Every sport, every club and every student was celebrated and represented in Lakewood's 'Roar' creation. Passions were shared. A story of unity was told. The tiger pride was overwhelming. And the sense of community was undeniably powerful.

Which is why LHS won the video competition, made their debut on Good Morning America and received a private concert in the school's gymnasium from Katy Perry herself!

Lakewood embodied a whole school spirit. (T)hey brought everyone together.
— Katy Perry

As designers, we spend countless hours and sometimes years of our lives hashing out every detail of a project and trying to work through any possible scenario of how various spaces will be used over time. We do extensive research, work with engineers and listen to in-depth feedback from user groups to understand every objective in the overall design. But the real magic of this profession is what happens when the drawings are rolled up, the contractors have applied the final coat of paint and the keys are ceremoniously handed over.  For this is the moment that the user outcome of our meticulously planned projects has the chance to turn around and surprises us. This is when we see how the spaces get used - how people interact within the built environment and with one another. A designer's intent may be translated into new possibilities in the user's hands. Expected or surprising, not every scenario of the building's use can be predicted. One day, you may think you've merely designed a new high school but you unknowingly may have just created the backdrop for the next pop-star inspired, nationally recognized music video or the platform for a publicly televised concert venue.

But the most meaningful compliment to a project's outcome is being just as proud of the people that inhabit our spaces as we are in having the opportunity to create those spaces. CRP is honored to have had even a remote role in Lakewood's tale of empowerment. Buildings wouldn't have a story if it weren't for the users, the people, who create its story. And what we took away from this spirited community was invaluable: Expect the unexpected. 

Seeing thousands of students come together and demonstrate the true meaning of 'building community'... now that's something to ROAR about. 

What's the future for the Pikes Peak Region YMCA?

BIG changes are coming!

The YMCA has launched a Capital Campaign project that will become a catalyst for new opportunities.

How will it impact the growth and development of our Colorado Springs communities?

How can WE be a part of it?

YES! If you haven't heard it already, there's quite the buzz circulating about some big changes for Colorado Springs in relation to the efforts of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region. For a redevelopment movement of this scale, it's only fitting that we have highly influential community members helping make the important calls on the future of our city-scape. This team of volunteers is leading the charge on funding efforts for the three Capital Campaign projects: Downtown YMCA, Garden Ranch YMCA and the new East Branch YMCA. The 1st convening of this committee has taken place and momentum is rapidly building behind these high-profile projects, which will total nearly $100 million in remodel and new construction work. These projects will also include collaborations with various partnerships.

As a valued neighbor and fellow voice of this community, not only will you benefit from the new and improved YMCA facilities and partnerships but you also have the opportunity to be an active force in this monumental development. YOU can make a difference in the places we live, work and play. Support strengthens the possibilities of how far this vision can reach. Whether you'd like to help with the Capital Campaign or support its journey through various methods, you can express your interest in getting involved by registering HERE

Stay connected with CRP Architects and the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region for upcoming information on project start dates, Capital Campaign progress, confirmed partnerships and updates on architectural renderings and plans for these community facilities.

Take one last look at the Downtown YMCA...

... because it will soon take on a whole new identity while playing an integral role in BUILDING COMMUNITY.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The Evolution of Fountain Fort Carson High School

Fountain, CO was established in 1859 as a railroad shipping center for the agricultural community. The first Fountain school dates back to 1888 with the first high school being built in 1954 (pictured above), nearly a century after the town's birth and the same year Fort Carson was designated from Camp Carson. The city continued to flourish and a boom in population growth drove a need for growth in the local school district as well. The community was in need of a gathering space that gave home to the city's growing population of athletes, students and their immediate families. This inspired the first phase of what would grow to become the official Fountain Fort Carson High School - and the time in which CRP was brought on board to help build this legacy. 

The beginning of FFCHS was brought to life through a new pool and athletic facility completed in 1997. This became a hub for the city, allowing the students and locals to compete, play and gather in one space. With this facility creating the foundation, design and construction was immediately underway to provide the adjacent academic spaces. 

The initial academic wing, library/media center, gym and auditorium were all constructed by 1999. The Phase II addition replaced the original high school building. Classrooms were designed in a 'cluster' arrangement with ample access to natural light and views of the sweeping front range. The library/media center is faced with a glass curtain wall to provide desired day-lighting as well as the makings for an engaging work and study space.

As the student population continued to increase, Phase III was added in 2004 and included expansion of the academic spaces, the art program and industrial arts. The addition was one story but was structured to accommodate a future second story. This story was incorporated into Phase IV.

The final phase of the FFCHS campus was the commons remodel/addition and the addition of the second story from the Phase III academic wing. The new commons area expands out from the original building line and has become one of the most iconic and recognized features of the building.

The Faces Behind Fountain

Under the direction of CRP's original founder, Holger Christiansen, Chris Mannino and Matt Kubus worked on all four phases of FFCHS. Chris, now principal and partner, has designed and built facilities in Fountain for nearly 25 years. Both Chris and Matt enjoyed watching this project grow from start to finish and spent countless hours over a span of roughly 12 years ensuring every detail was creatively and responsibly executed.

Downtown Colorado Springs goes from "IMAGINE IF..." to "COMING SOON..."

Not only will an iconic downtown building get a much needed renovation, so will the entire city block it sits on.

The YMCA has been a staple in Colorado Springs for over 140 years. Since 1873, the Pikes Peak Region YMCA is the largest and longest operating 'Y' in the area. The YMCA has since grown to include multiple branch locations and off-site centers along the Front Range that serve over 125,000 people each year. The downtown facility is over a half-century old. This facility, along with others in the area, are about to receive some much needed TLC.

While the YMCA has been planning for their facility improvements, a more in-depth conversation ensued on the subject of growing community presence in downtown Colorado Springs. It no longer was just about renovating the Y but more about how to make this area a new 'hub' for resources. In a recently released Gazette Article, YMCA CEO Boyd Williams stated

We’re really, truly looking at this model being a collaborative model, so there could be potential partnerships alongside with us, whether it’s health care, a charter school potentially, other components.

In order to begin the process of this multi-phase capital campaign for the Pikes Peak YMCA, Boyd Williams brought on CRP Architects as the Program Managers for the "Imagine" Campaign. We have been working hand-in-hand with the organization to master plan the success of the downtown redevelopment, as well as other facilities in the Colorado Springs area. These include Garden Ranch and the future construction of a new East Branch along the Powers corridor.

The YMCA and CRP Architects are both extremely passionate about strengthening the Colorado Springs community. This proposal is bigger than just the remodel of Y facilities. It's about finding ways to centralize important resources and introduce a new presence in strengthening downtown Colorado Springs. This project is about encouraging collaboration, healthy recreation, wellness, education, business and the growth of a local economy. There will also be involvement with First Presbyterian Church next door in terms of shared facility and program opportunities. This project is about bringing an entirely re-imagined modern scale to the concept of a "community center."

Below are some architectural graphics depicting the beginning developments of each of these phases. All images below are initial CONCEPT images. CRP is working diligently alongside the YMCA and other partners on evolving architectural designs and program functions. These facilities will go through multiple iterations, so stay tuned for updates as the various projects move forward. Each project will be multi-phased and will have varying construction start and end dates, which are still to be determined. 


The downtown redevelopment project will include renovations and additions to the Y facility. This means improved amenities, addition of Group Exercise and Health & Wellness spaces, locker room remodel and a possible "sky box" running track surrounding a rooftop field. The block redevelopment will also include possible partnerships with a charter school, senior center, business/medical designations and food/retail establishments.


The Garden Ranch facility along Montebello Drive will undergo a multi-phase additional/remodel. This will include a new entrance lobby complete with added administration and member space. There are also plans for renovated Group Exercise areas as well as updates to the existing aquatics area.


While the East Branch is still in its earliest phases of development, it has been confirmed that the YMCA has purchased the existing iT'Z Family Food and Fun facility near Powers Boulevard and South Carefree Circle. The Y now acts as the landlord for this facility. While Williams hopes for the family center to remain a successful business for the time being, there is an opportunity for the building to be converted to a Y facility down the road. 

* Render graphics modeled and produced by Colleen Cassidy of CRP Architects, PC and Mike Esch of Jean Sebben Associates, LLC. All imagery is official property of CRP Architects and the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region.

CRP Coloring Book

Did you know adult coloring books are a thing?

Come color our community with CRP Architects! We've assembled a fun selection of projects across the front range. Click the link below to skim through various buildings in your Colorado community built over the last 40 years.

Below are links to some sample pages. Click on one, download/print the PDF and let the coloring begin. All ages welcome! If you love your finished masterpiece, send it to us and you may have the chance to be a featured artist on our website. If you like what you see above and want a copy of the entire book or specific page, let us know! Send your artwork or request your own coloring book by emailing


Moving Up, Topping Out

When driving past Cheyenne Mountain High School, there is no doubt that progress is moving forward rapidly with new steel pushing the building upward each and every day. There comes a sense of reality when things start going vertical; months (more like years) of hard work noticeably coming to life. And as the erection of steel comes to a close, we took the time to honor the work finished and ceremoniously welcome the next construction phases to come.

Today, CRP Architects had the privilege of attending the official "Topping Out" Ceremony for the Cheyenne Mountain High School Remodel/Addition project. This is the day in which the building structure is completed (also known as 'topped out/off') with the last piece of steel. In this case, it was the final beam to be placed. In days previous, the beam was painted white and laid out for current CMHS students and faculty members to sign. There was also an opportunity for members of the strategy team, bond campaign team, DAG members, design team, engineers/consultants and site workers to sign as well.

Over 150 community members were in attendance including various community leaders, the CMSD Board of Education, CMSD Administration, CMHS students and teachers, project engineers and design/construction team members from CRP and GE Johnson. Everyone watched in awe as the monumental crane (approx. 334,000 lbs & almost 300 ft fully extended) lifted the final beam, swung it 360 degrees (by tradition) and then gracefully lowered it into place. Claps, cheers and tears could be heard throughout the crowd as the beam was bolted tightly into place. 

This project was a community effort that began in the beginning of 2014 with the Design Advisory Group and a bond strategy team. So being able to festively thank each of those members for their hard work and allow them to visually grasp the progress two years later was a priceless sentiment. GE Johnson went above and beyond in sponsoring this event and helping all those involved forever encapsulate this special moment in their memories. The momentum going into the final construction phases holds a strong sense of togetherness and excited energy. The entirety of the project will be completed in December of 2016.

While there is no substitute for outstanding teachers, principals, and motivated students, learning environments are critical, too. When students take pride in their schools, it has a positive effect on everything else, from student academic engagement to positive student behavior. There is no comparison to the learning spaces created by CRP Architects and those they’ve replaced, and while difficult to quantify, there is no doubt in my mind that this improved learning environment is an important component of our success.
— Dr. Walt Cooper, Superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District #12

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Interns Then, Partners Now

Many of you may recognize Brian Risley and Chris Mannino as the current partners and principal architects of CRP Architects...

But you may not realize that their journey with this firm began over 20 years ago...


EDUCATION:  Associate of Applied Science in Architecture - Pikes Peak Community College (1990)

LICENSE: Colorado & Arizona


EDUCATION: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture & Bachelor of Architecture - Rhode Island School of Design (1998)

LICENSE: Colorado & Wyoming

Brian and Chris were both hired out of college by the firm's original partners, Holger Christiansen and Leland Reece (both now retired). The two young architects started their careers in a time where computer software was newly surfacing and most projects were entirely hand-drawn. They both found a resonating passion for the work they were doing and for the Colorado community they lived in - a catalyst to their futures in becoming fellow partners and principals of CRP Architects.

What was the very first project you worked on?
CHRIS: Douglas County High School
BRIAN: Phase II of the Center for Creative Leadership

How has the office/culture evolved since you began working here?
CHRIS: It’s been amazing to experience the technological transformation of the office and industry.  I would spend endless hours drafting by hand and running blueprints.
BRIAN: It has been fascinating watching technology evolve both in the world and in this profession since starting almost 20 years ago. The office culture has also grown to have more of a family/team feel and our reputation has evolved into being strong and widely-known stewards of this community.

What made you passionate about staying with CRP and becoming a partner?
CHRIS: Being able to experience all aspects of Architecture and developing personal relationships with each community has kept me passionate with CRP.  I love Colorado and all the culture that goes with living in the West.
BRIAN: I was drawn to the company's philosophy of actively listening to clients and fulfilling their needs through the innovative design of their facilities. I grew to love being an advocate for community members when it came to the built world. I had the option of staying in Boston which inevitably meant I would've become a small fish in a big pond. Working for CRP allowed me to wear many hats I may have never had the opportunity to wear elsewhere and I was able to have a greater impact on the Colorado region.




The historic Guide Travel Building in downtown Colorado Springs not only represents the catalyst to CRP's birth but was also the firm's first home. Holger Christiansen, the founding principal, designed this geometrically aesthetic building in 1979 to house Colorado Springs' premier travel agency at the time as well as provide an office space for the architect himself.    

With its unique circular portico, the building stood out among the rest of the downtown street-scape. Attention to detail, honest materials and sharp geometry made for an engaging atmosphere, stirring an adventurous energy for travel-destined customers.

While the building may be from the hand-drawn era, the technology of its structure has withstood the test of time. Its presence still stands strong in our community after almost 40 years and multiple generations. As the travel industry transitioned to online bookings at the turn of the century, the space was molded to inhabit many different local businesses as the building's location is prime real estate in the downtown network. It's currently utilized by Michael F. Bennet - U.S. Senator of Colorado - for whom CRP also did the interior remodel for. 

Building Community through Leadership

Last week, CRP's own Colleen Cassidy graduated from the LNOW! Class of 2015.

This is a five month program affiliated with Leadership Pikes Peak in which 30 young professionals in the Colorado Springs Region are selected to participate. Throughout the semester, they learn how to develop various leadership skills, understand their personal roles in a community, are educated on both the social and governmental assets of Colorado Springs and expand their business development networks. 

During their five months, these young professionals are also broken into four smaller project groups to complete a semester long deliverable for a local non-profit. Colleen worked alongside a team of seven individuals to create a case development campaign for the locally known Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI). CRP is also proud to announce that Colleen was voted by her peers as the recipient of the 2015 Community Trustee Award for her work on this project - going above and beyond throughout the duration of the project and exemplifying the traits of a community leader. 

Visit for more information on local happenings and leadership programs in the Pikes Peak area!