Not-So-New Urbanism: Prospect

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 which is the most urban of the new urban.

On a sunny summer morning, with the sun glinting off the nearby cornfields and recent rains having turned the parks a deep emerald green, Prospect looks too good to be true. But this is the reality of not-so-new urbanism.

Prospect, which is just down Main Street in Longmont, turned an eighty-acre tree farm into Colorado's first new urbanism community, winner of the Governor's Smart Growth Award in 1996. Developer Kiki Wallace hired Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), the planners of Seaside, Florida, and Kentlands, Maryland, to make real his vision for his family's farm, and the results today are stunning. The architecture ranges from modern to Southwestern to victorian to old mining shack; the landscaping is mature, and trees shade the narrow, winding streets.

But there is trouble in this paradise: The project, now in its fourth stage, is still short of the planned 585 units, and many of the retail spaces in the charming little downtown are empty. Still, the long-term prospects of Prospect look good. Very, very good.

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

Easily -- and if they fall, there's lots of lush grass to land in. And since the homes vary so much in style, they should be able to find their own when they stand up again.

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

The streets are narrow, but the drivers appear willing to share the road.

Economic diversity: Can poor people live near rich people?

The architecture may be diverse, but the income levels are not.

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

Since Prospect has been open more than a decade, it has both longtime residents and new ones, as well as older residents and young ones.

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

There's open space (although not official open space) all around Prospect, but the project has plenty of little pocket parks, too.

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

No mass transit, unless you count tandems.

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

There's not a Starbucks in sight, and most of the shops are local. Vic's Coffee does a great morning business, as does the Two Dogs Café.

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

Does a community pool count? How about a Jaguar parts store?

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

The majority of the homes listed on the Prospect website start at around $500,000 and go up, up, up from there. One four-bed, four-bath, 3,192-square-foot single-family home with stainless-steel appliances, vaulted ceilings, five-piece master bath was listed at $489,000. Condos were running in the high $200s to the high $300s.

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

It feels like a very charming small town -- Crested Butteish, even -- with Denver just a half-hour away.

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