Not-So-New Urbanism: Bradburn Village

The Congress for the New Urbanism is holding its annual conference in Denver June 10-14, complete with bus tours of our most well-known new urbanist enclaves. But how do you judge walkable, neighborhood-based developments? Is it by the diversity (or lack thereof) of their residents, the number of parks nearby, their stumbling distance to a local watering hole? Over the next few days, we'll explore and judge -- oh yes, judge -- six of these developments and find out for sure just which is the most urban of the new urban.

Bradburn Village is a 125-acre new urbanist development in the north end of Westminster along 120th Avenue. The collection of homes, apartments and businesses is brought to you by local firm Continuum Partners, the same master planners behind Belmar and the massive Union Station redevelopment.

But while the above projects are considered "urban infill" of formerly-used sites, Bradburn Village was constructed atop virgin soil amid the prototypical suburban developments that we've all come to know and accept. Thus, it's a bit of an oddity -- a development with a suburban footprint but "urban" ambitions. One online poster described the place as "like a charming pre-WWII town, but new," a phrase that kinda makes my skin crawl but is essentially accurate.

My basic assessment: If you had to live in Westminster, this would probably be a good place to do it.

Stumble-ability: Can people stumble home from a nearby bar or restaurant

Yes. As far as real bars, there's the Exchange Tavern and the Old Man (it can be treacherous crossing 120th, though). Restaurants include Ristra's Santa Fe Grill, Ted's Montana Grill, Extreme Pizza and Zen Asian Bistro & Sushi. Not too much stumbling that I saw on this night. Ted's looked as dead as a buffalo carcass.

Multi-modal: Can people ride their bikes/skateboards/unicycles/go-peds without getting smashed by an SUV?

Wide, set-back sidewalks, streets that seem to slow traffic, and garages in the rear of houses make it seem like a nice area ride to ride a unicycle, or even a unicycle with two wheels, which I think people are calling "bi-cycles."

Economic diversity: Can poor people live near rich people?

It appears the planners of Bradburn followed the descending stair-step model of development, with taller, denser, apartment buildings and townhomes closer to 120th and wider, more expensive single family homes at the rear. So, sure, a person renting a one-bedroom apartment is within potato-launching distance of their fancy-pants counterparts.

Real diversity: Is there mix of people, or is it just a gated community with smaller lots?

Well, to be fair, it's at the Westminster/Broomfield border, so it's not exactly the rainbow coalition out there to begin with. Let's just say the census bureau won't have a difficult time charting the demographic of Bradburn Village.

Green space: Are there open, public spaces where people are recreating? (parks, public gardens, creeks, greenways)

There are some nice small parks in great locations, where people can sit and do whatever -- not just the golf course-like expanses of green nothingness that you see bordering so many other suburban developments. Plus, the Dry Creek Open Space to the south has miles of lakes and trails.

Transit test: Does it have mass transit attached or nearby that people actually use?

The only transit I saw was an RTD shelter sitting lonely and forlorn on the side of zooming 120th Avenue. A person could probably take the bus to get to work or somewhere else, but I'm pretty confident most folks probably just drive.

Mixed-useless: Is there a mix of shops and business integrated with housing? How many are chains?

Retail is the biggest conundrum here. Since all the commercial structures are huddled up against the collector road, Bradburn Village feels like someone took a small town and sliced it in half. Clearly their mini "downtown" is still incomplete, with several empty lots and spaces that have yet to find tenants. Some of the lessees that are in place have been exported from Belmar, such as The Press Coffee and Ted's. But at least there aren't any of the typical chains you see everywhere else. I did notice a little sandwich shop, a tailor and an art gallery.

Civics search: Are there public buildings, community institutions or civic centers that serve a non-commercial, public need?

There are a few pools, a community center, some private schools -- pretty much a dreamland for over-ambitious parents. And if that's not wholesome enough, there's even a Presbyterian church with a gleaming, white, old towne spire. But the pools and the community center are not part of the City of Westminster's public system; they're owned and operated by the development. Nice thought, but not civic.

Priced out: What seems to be the average price of a home? An apartment

I found one three-bedroom, three-bath bungalow for sale at $349,000. A three-bedroom townhome was up for $299,000. Prices seem commensurate with the non-New Urbanist developments nearby.

Urbanish: Does it feel like a dynamic urban place? Or is it just lipstick on a suburban pig?

Bradburn Village wins with its mixture of architecturally interesting housing and unique streetscapes. I found myself noticing cool houses and odd little accents of place the same way I do while driving through some of Denver's old neighborhoods. Yet partly because it's still unfinished, the commercial area has the Hollywood soundstage-y feel that plagues so many new urbanist developments. It's like the whole place fell out of the sky onto suburban Westminster. Once the place gets built out, the developers need to find a way to integrate their little village with the rest of the city and vice versa.

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