Page B1.1 . 04 June 2003                     
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    Smarter Building in Denver

    by Seth Brown

    In the United States, building "smart" striving for compact, mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods can be hard. There are many reasons: less-proven markets for pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods, higher costs of building, inflexible mortgage lending requirements, often-rigid building codes and zoning regulations, and the community opposition that may challenge any development.

    These obstacles feed perceptions that smart-growth projects are more difficult to build and less profitable than conventional sprawl developments. As a result, sprawl tends to flourish, despite good intentions. The new Highlands' Garden Village, a smart-growth development in Denver, illustrates the challenges.

    The 30-acre (12-hectare) site in northwest Denver originally belonged to Elitch Gardens, a century-old amusement park that moved downtown in the mid-1990s. The site was purchased from the city by Perry Rose LLC, an entity controlled by developers Charles J. Perry and Jonathan F. P. Rose. While their redevelopment may meet smart-growth goals, their efforts went against the grain of the conventional U.S. property development system.

    The Vision Behind a Community

    Rose's vision for the site was simple to explain but difficult to achieve. "The most important thing was the creation of a community, and community implies diversity," explains Rose. "We wanted to demonstrate the economic model of including all types of housing on a site."

    For Highlands' Garden Village, that meant single-family houses, carriage houses, townhouses, senior housing, apartments and cooperative housing — a total of 326 housing units on a relatively small site. To design the site and housing, Perry Rose hired Calthorpe Associates, a nationally recognized urban planning and architecture firm with smart-growth expertise.   >>>

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    An expanded version of this article originally appeared in the premiere issue of The Next American City.



    ArchWeek Image

    Walking trails and green space take the place of roads in the smart-growth" development of Highlands' Garden Village in Denver.
    Photo: Seth A. Brown

    ArchWeek Image

    Newly constructed apartments next to the old Elitch's theater, which will be retained and renovated.
    Photo: Seth A. Brown


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