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Simonsen and Hill Initiate Community Studio
April 24rd, 2009

Veteran Salt Lake City planners start a business to build better communities
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Sugar House, Salt Lake City -- Architect and City Council Representative Soren Simonsen along with Kathleen J. Hill, Urban Designer and City Planning Commissioner held a press conference where they announced a joint business venture that will offer architecture, urban planning and design, consulting, and development services aimed at building sustainable communities.

Soren Simonsen
Soren Simonsen
(by Laurie Bray)
Kathleen J. Hill
Kathleen J. Hill

Simonsen and Hill were previously employed with CRSA of Salt Lake City. Simonsen was a Principal at CRSA for 15 years and has won many awards for his projects aimed at sustainability and community development. Simonsen has also been an outspoken critic of the demolition of Salt Lake City's historic Sugar House Granite Block. Community Studio will offer services that focus on their shared passion for "creating beautiful, meaningful places that support and sustain home and family, are informed by local history, strengthen local business, and build community," Hill said.

Kathleen J. Hill came from Washington to Utah to complete a Master's Degree in Urban Planning and Design at the University of Utah. Hill previously worked in Washington State as an architect and community planner. Hill says her involvement in the Fairhaven community in Washington -- where she assisted Mr. Ken Imus in transforming a ghost town into a community full of charm and history -- helped her realize that beauty and the essential elements of historic and traditional design are too often neglected in modern day communities.

Correcting the Problems From Suburban Sprawl

Hill pointed out that research is now demonstrating the damage caused by suburbia and urban sprawl. Disconnection has negatively impacted the health and well-being of people and community. Residents of poorly designed communities have been shown to have higher occurances of health problems such as obesity, asthma, and depression. Hill says including walking in her daily routine (to the 9th and 9th neighborhood, a few blocks from her home) has improved her own well being. She hopes to promote the building of neighboorhoods that promote health and a sense of community. "People just feel better when they can connect to other people," Hill said. "If you want to sustain the planet, sustain the people who will be doing the work to sustain the earth they live on," Hill stated.

Fairhaven community
Fairhaven Community that Hill helped transfrom from
a ghost town to a tourist destination

Simonsen and Hill say they will focus their efforts in the western United States, but are open to doing work nationally. They have multiple projects in Washington State, and Simonsen mentioned two sizable proejcts in Utah they are currently working on. One is a project in Brigham City, Utah. The Baron Woolen Mill project involves the renovation of a historic mill and light industrial buildings. Using Granville Island, BC, Canada as their model, Community Studio hopes to create an opportunity for local businesses, craftsman, and artists to have a space to produce and sell their wares.

Simonsen said he feels connection with Brigham City because his Grandfather was a former Mayor who was integral in building that community. Simonsen's grandfather developed a hydro-electric system, owned the Merrill Mill (also a part of the Baron Woolen Mill project Community Studio is working on), and planted the trees that line Main Street. Simonsen understands that historic connections have power to create attachment. Hill and Simonsen believe finding the story in a place and weaving it into the development will make a place more meaningful for the people who live there.

Hill, Simonsen, and Quinlan are working with clients from Bellingham, Washington to develop mixed-use and walkable neighborhoods, villages, and resort communities. Community Studio is doing a waterfront development project for the Port and is creating a village masterplan for the holdings of the Jacaranda Corporation in the City of Blaine.

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Working to create developments that are locally informed and meaningful, Hill says their work in WA and here in Utah will embody all of the principles of beautiful and sustainable development that she, Simonsen, and Quinlan endorse. They want to create places where people love to be.

Katherine Quinlan is also joining Community Studio, but was unable to attend the press conference.

Simonsen was asked his opinion regarding the current state of the Sugar House Granite Block. "It is sad to see what was such a viable, flourishing part of our community now lying fallow. It's my hope that what is eventually built there honors the history and community of Sugar House."

Read More on Simonsen's and Hill's Inovement in Salt Lake City Planning

More on the building of the Fairhaven Community

Previous Story on Kathleen J. Hill on the City Creek Center Skybridge controversy in Salt Lake City

Previous Story on Soren Simonsen on the Sugar House Granite Block

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