BendonAdams is a consulting firm based in Aspen, Colorado that joins former City of Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon, Senior Planner Sara Adams, and Studio/Marketing Manager / Project Assistant Erin Wackerle.
Together, we have over 50 years’ experience in city planning, historic preservation, strategic thinking, and community engagement. We have a deep appreciation of the nuanced social, cultural, built, and natural environments of communities and bring a fresh perspective grounded in practical experience to our projects.
While based on Colorado’s Western Slope, we work regionally and nationally employing our planning experiences with public and private clients, policy development, process improvement, urban design, historic and commercial design guidelines, facilitation and extensive public outreach initiatives.
Land Use Planning
Historical Property Analysis and Designation
Property Analysis and Entitlements
Stakeholder and Public Engagement
Design and Historic Preservation Guidelines
Strategic Development Services
Public Policy and Code Writing
Internal Process Audits
Council and Board Meetings
Community Outreach Events
BendonAdams is involved in a variety of planning projects in Aspen, CO and beyond. Below you will find a small sampling of what we’ve been up to.
Aspen Fire Protection District
Property Analysis and Entitlements, Land Use Planning, Strategic Development Services, Project Management
Crystal Palace Project
Historical Property Analysis, Land Use Planning, Project Management, Property Analysis and Entitlements, Stakeholder and Public Engagement
Commercial Design Standards
Design and Historic Preservation Guidelines, Project Management, Stakeholder and Public Engagement, Public Policy and Code Writing
Bozeman Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District Review Project
Land Use Planning, Project Management, Public Policy and Code Writing, Stakeholder and Public Engagement
Burlingame Phase III
Land Use Planning, Property Analysis and Entitlements, Stakeholder and Public Engagement
Chris Bendon, AICP
Principal and Co-Founder
Chris brings 24 years of municipal planning management, community visioning, and public engagement to BendonAdams. Chris spent 11 years as Aspen’s Community Development Director guiding development policies and managing all aspects of development review, permitting, and inspection services. Previous work focused on development review, facilitation of long-range planning and development policy, large-scale urban design, and transportation planning.
Chris facilitated the development, adoption and successful implementation of the 2012 Aspen Area Community Plan, which engaged thousands of citizens through multiple techniques ranging from personal interviews to “clicker sessions” to web-based venues. Chris has created design guidelines, affordable housing policy, impact mitigation requirements, zoning and development codes, lighting and signage codes, and construction management strategies. Chris facilitated the revision of Aspen’s Commercial and Residential Design Guidelines, and Aspen’s award-winning Affordable Housing Certificates Program.
Chris led a comprehensive effort to revise Aspen’s Land Use Code, making it user-friendly through simple language and illustrations. In a similar vein, Chris streamlined Aspen’s building permit process, dramatically improving the department’s performance during periods of intense construction activity.
In 2017, Chris facilitated a comprehensive analysis of the planning and permitting process in Anchorage, Alaska. A series of short, medium, and long-term budget-neutral recommendations are being used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Development Services Division.
Chris has been an invited speaker for several regional, state and national functions and has received state and national recognition for public engagement, citizen participation, historic preservation, and downtown development. Chris is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and has mentored emerging leaders through his volunteer work with Roaring Fork Leadership.
Master of City Planning, University of Pennsylvania
Bachelor of Environmental Design, University of Colorado, Boulder
Sara Adams, AICP
Principal and Co-Founder
Sara has 16 years of creative planning, urban design, historic preservation and community outreach experience. Her passion for and expertise in historic preservation and urban planning and design informs all aspects of the studio’s work. Sara provides a comprehensive review of complex land use cases, researches properties for historic significance, manages historic restorations and rehabilitations, and coordinates with referral agencies and private developers to create partnerships. She authors in-depth historic city and county reports documenting the story of each property, and has co-produced short film documentaries on historic preservation. She has led numerous commercial projects in the downtown core from conception through the entitlement process, including the HP award winning project at 301 East Hopkins, which involved the restoration of two structures within one parcel: a historic Victorian cottage now operating as a popular restaurant, and a three-story mixed-use building. Sara’s efforts have also helped to add to the affordable housing inventory, implementing recent projects that strike a balance between preserving historic structures while adding livable units for the community’s employees. With a strong background in research, Sara is able to piece together complicated property history to inform future redevelopment. She excels at creative solutions to tricky properties throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
During her time at the City of Aspen, Sara was integral to amendments to the land-use code, such as rewriting Aspen’s short term rental program. Sara provided local leadership through writing and managing all aspects of state grants to develop preservation plans for both private and public historic properties. Sara and Aspen’s Historic Preservation Officer developed an AspenModern program that preserves existing 20th century assets within Aspen. AspenModern has been recognized with State and National awards.
Sara has a passion for crafting meaningful, clear and user-friendly design guidelines that address neighborhood character, historic district context, and timeless urban design. She co-authored a rewrite of the Aspen Historic Preservation Design Guidelines in 2015 and wrote the City of Aspen’s Commercial Design Standards and Guidelines in 2016.
Like Chris, Sara’s experience expands beyond the Roaring Fork Valley. She wrote historic design guidelines in Rochester, New Hampshire and recommendations for a more robust historic preservation program. Sara completed a comprehensive analysis and audit of the neighborhood conservation overlay district in Bozeman, Montana with recommendations for future amendments. Sara created and led a windshield survey of Bozeman’s downtown neighborhoods with local volunteers to highlight development patterns and potential areas for future historic districts. She was hired by the city of Aspen in 2019 to update hundreds of historic preservation inventory forms per History Colorado standards.
Sara has presented at numerous conferences and authored articles about historic preservation. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and meets National Park Service Professional Qualification Standards for Architectural History. Her projects have received numerous awards, including the 2020 Preservation Award from the Historic Preservation Commission for her work on 301 East Hopkins. While at Columbia University, she received a conservation honor award for the development of design guidelines to preserve historic graffiti. Sara previously served on Pitkin County’s Agricultural Board and regularly volunteers at the Aspen Community School.
Master of Historic Preservation with honors, Columbia University
Bachelor of Fine Arts with honors, Dickinson College
Studio/Marketing Manager / Project Assistant
Erin handles BendonAdam’s project administration, research and analysis, studio management and marketing. She supports all aspects of city and county land use applications, and collaborates with design teams in the drafting of county site plan and activity envelope packages. She oversees all of BendonAdams’ quality control efforts, making sure land use reports are free of gibberish and use words commonly recognized in the English language. Prior to BendonAdams, Erin worked in marketing at Design Workshop, where her work was critical to the firm’s success in numerous large-scale projects involving public- and private-sector partners. Erin is a talented planner, creative thinker, and dedicated worker who is working toward certification with the American Institute for Certified Planners.
Bachelors of Business Management and Marketing from the University of Montana
“Art is not what you see but what you make others see.”
– Edgar Degas
BendonAdams is proud to support the Carbondale Clay Center, a nonprofit community arts center whose mission is to enrich lives through the ceramic arts. Now celebrating their 25th year, they welcome everyone of all ages to explore the art of ceramics, from the casually curious to established artists. Community support allows the Carbondale Clay Center to feature gallery exhibitions, sponsor ceramic classes, kid camps, artist residencies, outreach programs with schools and special groups, and community events.
If you are interested in learning more, signing up for a class, finding a current exhibition, partnering with Carbondale Clay Center or donating, please visit them at www.carbondaleclay.org.
Chris, Sara, and Erin.
And our office dogs, Louis, Jones, Bates, Foster, and Aria.