Meet the Civitots: Eric DeNardo
As we continue our “Meet the Civitots” series of posts, we are excited to introduce one of Civitas’ newest tots, Eric DeNardo. Eric joined the Civitas family in February of this year as a part time employee while still attending school at the University of Colorado Denver. Upon graduation in May, he made the transition to full-time employee. Eric brings with him a new wave of fresh ideas and represents the next generation’s way of thinking. Eric is eager to continue building his professional career as an Urban Designer, and we are thrilled to be a part of his journey.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH CIVITAS?
I started working for Civitas as a part time employee this past February while I was still working on earning my degree at the University of Colorado Denver. After I graduated in May, I was offered a full-time position as an Urban Designer. Before Civitas, I was an Environmental Planner in California, and it was then that I made the decision that I wanted to create spaces versus regulate projects.
WHO OR WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO CIVITAS? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WORK HERE?
I was really attracted to the type of projects Civitas works on. During my interview, the team told me that the work they do is “meaningful and interesting” That is really what caught my attention – I want to create meaningful spaces. I was also drawn to the people and the culture. Everyone here is a little quirky and funky, and it is a very close-knit group. The culture Mark Johnson has created allows for everyone to express their own needs and wants, and people are able to navigate them on their own. There is a sense of openness and flexibility here and it is not rigid. There is a great sense of mutual respect here, and I appreciate that lower level employees, like myself, are listened to and heard as well.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL APPROACH TO DESIGN?
I believe that the first step is to understand the context of the place, the community and the history. You have to listen to what the community needs, and not just place them in a box with a blanket fix. Every space is unique and you need to take the time to understand the individual asks. From there, it’s time to develop a wide brainstorm of ideas. There can be a lot of iterations and sometimes it can be challenging, but the iterative process always ends up creating a better project or place. I think it is important to focus on creating a place for the people, and not just a design I personally think is cool.
WHAT EXPERIENCES (OR PEOPLE, OR PLACES) HAVE HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE ON YOU AND/OR YOUR DESIGN APPROACH?
The most influential experience I have had was while studying for a semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. The stay truly opened my eyes to what a city could be and how it could be designed. I grew up in southern California, which is extremely suburbanized and you have to rely on a car to get virtually anywhere. In Copenhagen, I could ride my bike to the train to get to class, and I could walk essentially everywhere I needed to get to. It was remarkable and I very much appreciated that experience and how it shifted my perspective. Chris Parezo, one of the Civitas principals, also had a huge influence on me joining Civitas full time because of his mentorship. I greatly admire his expertise and appreciate his leadership.
HOW WOULD YOUR COWORKERS DESCRIBE YOU?
I think initially I come off as quiet because when I enter a new atmosphere I become observant and I read the dynamics carefully before I feel comfortable. As time goes on and I open up more, I think my team would describe me as quirky, but also recognize that I am very determined, goal-oriented and always seeking fulfillment.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT SO FAR, EITHER AT WORK OR IN LIFE IN GENERAL?
At my previous job at the California Transit, I was hired on as an associate. Within three years, I had worked my way up to be a senior supervisor at the company. This timeline may seem normal, but at CalTran, this speed of growth I achieved had been unheard of whereas most of the senior employees had been there for more than ten years. So this promotion was a huge honor and I proved that I was not only effective at the job but I was also capable of managing more than 40 projects at once as well as managing people much older than myself. When I first started the job, I wrote down that I wanted to become a senior supervisor in three years. I thought the goal was a little out of reach, but I wrote it down anyway. So to be able to reflect back and realize that I achieved what I set out to do is very rewarding and I am proud of myself.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS DO YOU HOPE OR ASPIRE TO REACH IN THE FUTURE?
A personal goal for the future would be to own five properties within five years. My career goals for the future are to eventually become a principal and to someday lead an urban design practice.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TYPES OF DESIGN PROJECTS TO WORK ON, OR DESIGN CHALLENGES TO SOLVE?
Right now I am still very early in my career, and every project feels new and exciting. I am constantly learning and exploring different projects and facing new challenges, so I don’t have a favorite just yet.
WHAT CURRENT INTERESTING PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON, AND WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT THEM?
Right now I am working on the Brickyards in Lakewood, a 11.5 acre site right next to the transit station, where the developer wants to create a new gathering place for the community. It’s really exciting that the developer has such a grand vision and is willing to put a lot of time, energy and money into the project. His enthusiasm allows us to explore a variety of inventive and bold ideas.
WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF WORK TO HAVE FUN, OR RELAX, OR LEARN, OR VOLUNTEER?
I really enjoy hiking anywhere and everywhere. Having just moved to Denver, I am always exploring the city and checking out new areas. I like to call it “urban hiking” when I am checking out the more developed parts of the city.
WHAT ARE YOU READING OR LISTENING TO THESE DAYS?
Right now I am reading The Dark Horses by Todd Rose Ogi Ogas. It is a great book that discusses how a lot of people think that in order to be successful, you have to become excellent. The author argues that it is actually the reverse – you have to be fulfilled and then excellence will follow. It’s very interesting and I think it follows Civitas’ same approach and mantra to follow your individuality.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD TO EAT, OR RECIPE TO COOK?
Easy – a peanut butter jelly sandwich.
DESCRIBE ONE ITEM THAT YOU NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT.
I hate to say it, but definitely my iPhone. My favorite app is the podcast app. I like to listen to different podcasters share their knowledge on topics I am interested in such as real estate, investing and personal growth.
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Civitas is always looking for talented individuals to join our creative team. If you (or someone you know) is seeking a meaningful career in landscape architecture and urban planning, feel free send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to hear from you!