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Prospect New Town - Longmont, Colorado.  Photo courtesy The Daily Times-Call.

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as PlacesAnnouncing Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places, by Simmons B. Buntin with Ken Pirie
Planetizen Press
  
The Prospect New Town case study on this page is out of date. A completely revised case study is included in the new book, which is available in full-color print and electronic versions, with an introduction by Galina Tachieva, author of Spawl Repair Manual.
  
Learn more and order you copy!

  
By Simmons B. Buntin

 
Prospect New Town is located on a former tree farm at the intersection of Route 287 and Pike Road in Longmont, Colorado. Designed by the town planning firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, the New Urbanist town in the shadow of Long's Peak and the Colorado Front Range features narrow, tree-lined streets and wide sidewalks connecting homes, parks, and-eventually-shops and offices. Home types include higher-end detached houses, town and courtyard homes, apartments above detached garages, and live/work units. A variety of public amenities are planned, and an elder care facility may also be built. Mature trees have been planted along streets and in the town's parks to provide the shade and privacy of an established community. Prospect New Town should be completed in 2004.

Prospect New Town Site Plan.  Courtesy Prospect New Town.History

The idea for Prospect New Town was born in the early 1990s, when developer John "Kiki" Wallace decided to give new life to his family tree farm just south of Longmont. Over the next few years, Wallace studied neighborhood and community types and determined that the only appropriate use for his land was a community that placed people before cars, was built on the historic architectural integrity of old Longmont, and that used the mature landscaping of the farm. In January 1994, Wallace invited town planner Andres Duany to conduct community workshops that would enable Duany's firm to develop New Urbanist principles for the needs and conditions of Wallace's site. Over a span of three days at the Longmont Opera House, the public workshop participants crafted a plan, led by Duany, to lay out Prospect New Town. In addition to physical placement of streets, parks, and the like, the workshop drafted detailed design guidelines, or codes, to create a cohesive place.

Then the hard work began. Over the next four years, developers John Bruns and Wallace teamed with Duany to "fight tooth and nail," according to the Boulder County Business Report, with the City of Longmont to hammer out an agreement to make Prospect a reality. The City's largest concerns were public safety-including access by emergency vehicles-and traffic patterns.

Pocket park and construction at Prospect.
Traditional architecture, such as this Craftsman-style
bungalow, surrounds a Prospect pocket park.

Photo by S. Buntin.

Designing for Success

Prospect's design guidelines cover building placement, elements, height, and parking. They vary for each type of building, and include specific configurations, materials, coloring, etc., for each. The codes "feel much like trying to get a change approved in a designated historic district," says one local housing expert. But that's for a very good reason:

"We're not building something for people to disappear into the interior of," says Wallace. "We're building something that when you are outside the exterior, you feel like you are a part of something, and that you enjoy the experience of walking outside. The new urbanism we have here is pedestrian-oriented," he continues. "The project connects to other areas. It doesn't just dead-end into itself, and knock back everything else. It is part of the community. It's accessible. The houses are dealt with in a fashion that architecturally is very appealing."

Prospect's design guidelines are so stringent, in fact, that Duany's firm in Miami reviews and approves the architectural drawings for each house before allowing construction to begin. For self-described "control freak" Wallace, that's a plus. For builders and future residences, it's nothing short of tedious. 

Brownstones at Prospect.
The design for Prospect's Brownstone townhomes.
Graphic courtesy Prospect New Town.

"It's an arduous review process," Wallace admits. "It is a three-tiered process. It takes about six weeks. The amount of detail, the level of scrutiny on the review process is very demanding. It has been difficult for some architects to contend with. It's like going through two municipalities-the City of Longmont, then us."

Wallace has kicked five builders out of Prospect for failing to follow the town's traditional design principles. "I'm at war," Wallace says. "It's me against the builder. That's why my project is working."

Front porches at Prospect.
Front porches, wide sidewalks, and street trees are the norm at Prospect.
Photo by S. Buntin. 

Prospect's original residents, at first wary of Wallace's my-way-or-the-highway approach, now respect and appreciate the developer's commitment to excellence in architectural integrity. "That's why I like him so much," says one of the Prospect "pioneers."

For Prospect's builders, the challenges are not only meeting Wallace's critical eye, but also getting the entire building industry to understand and support such precision. "The hard part is getting the subs [subcontractors] to understand what it's all about," says Doug Elting of Colt Construction, whose lots all sold before breaking ground. Prospect's tedious and time-consuming building review process led some to believe that, in the beginning, Wallace and Bruns were going broke on the project. Now, however, the project's reputation of quality and aesthetic appeal means that lots sell immediately when offered.

The Challenge of Affordable Housing

Prospect New Town will consist of 338 housing units, including Brownstones, luxury townhomes with rooftop terraces, single-family homes that may include carriage houses and/or detached garages with apartments or offices above, and Courtyard homes. The homes range from 1,800 to 5,000 square feet, all custom built, on .10-acre lots (though two lots may be purchased for the larger single-family homes). 

Nearly all of the single-family homes include a 400- to 700-square-foot studio or carriage home above the garage. Current prices range from $285,000 to over $500,000, which at the "lower end" is about the average price of housing in Boulder County. The county's aggressive open space acquisition policy-as well as a surge in high-tech development along the Denver-Boulder corridor south of Longmont-has pushed housing prices way up.

Prospect under construction.
Prospect under construction, circa 1996.
Photo courtesy National Town Builders Association.

In order for Prospect to receive Longmont's blessing, it was required to designate 10 percent of its housing as "affordable." By current Boulder County guidelines, that means landlords can charge $863 per month, plus utilities, to people who make 80 percent of the median income.

Implementing the affordable housing mandate is tricky. "Nothing out here will be permanently affordable," Wallace admits.

Longmont's director of planning, Brad Schol, agrees. "I don't think that particular project hit the nail on the head" regarding the affordable housing requirements, he said. "But affordable housing takes many different forms." And the city understands both that projects like Prospect require a unique approach, and also that Prospect is the first development of its kind in Longmont and the Front Range. It's a bit of a test case, and adjustments and amendments for future projects are expected. For now, Prospect is meeting the requirements by requiring 10 percent of its homeowners to rent their garage-top apartments at the "affordable" rate.

Historical residential architectural styles.
Prospect's high-end residential homes are modeled
after the architecture of old town Longmont.

Photo by S. Buntin.

Prospect's approach to housing types is one of flexibility. "If we find the townhouses are in more demand than single-family houses," says developer Bruns, "we can regroup some single-family lots and make townhouses out of them. That's part of our neighborhood. We're going to go with what makes sense: what's in demand and works best for this community." He continues: "It is a custom home neighborhood, not a production-type subdivision. All these houses are custom homes, specifically designed for each lot. We have five or six different builders who are working with individual architects to come up with designs that comply with the codes that we have already established."

Roofs and garage apartments at Prospect.
Most single-family homes have apartments or studios above their garages.
Photo by S. Buntin.

Urban Amenities

Just as Wallace points out the importance of stringent exterior and streetscape design guidelines, Bruns notes that this approach results in "social interaction [among] the people who are going to live in the neighborhood." Prospect's focus "addresses the social issues that are totally lost in suburbia."

What makes Prospect different from other suburban high-end developments is its emphasis on social interaction, promulgated in part through its public amenities. Phase one includes two of the nine pocket parks planned at Prospect, all within a two-minute walk of each house. An ice rink and community pool are planned for future phases. Ornamental landscaping and streetscaping-from benches to custom brick and concrete work-line the narrow streets. Alleys, which are lined on one side with gravel to reduce impervious surfaces and runoff into a nearby stream, relegate garages to the backs of homes.

Though only one commercial building has been constructed so far, the developers plan a two-block town center that will include offices, retail such as a coffee shop and bookstore, and a post office. Learning from other New Urbanist developments across the country, Prospect is waiting for its "critical mass" of residents before building additional commercial space.

Multifamily housing at Prospect.
Multi-family housing at Prospect displays ornamental detail in brick and stonework.
Photo by S. Buntin. 

Award-Winning Work

Prospect's success is measured not only in housing sales-which are brisk-but also in the recognition it has garnered. It received a 1996 Smart Growth award from then-governor Roy Romer, who initiated Colorado's Smart Growth program.

Ultimately, Prospect New Town's success will also be measured in how well it performs as a community, that largely undefinable concoction of public life, social interaction, and support for local goods and services. And that can't be reviewed until the project is complete and, really, until it has had time to mature as a community

"This is like a great big classroom," Wallace says of Colorado's first New Urbanist project. Indeed, it's teaching a course on how to effectively redefine suburban community for many towns in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies.
  

For more information, visit the Prospect New Town website at www.ProspectNewTown.com.

  

Simmons B. Buntin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments. With Ken Pirie, he is the author of the new book Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places (Planetizen Press, 2013). His books of poetry are Riverfall (2005) and Bloom (2010), both published by Ireland's Salmon Poetry. Recent work has appeared in North American Review, ISLE, Versal, Orion, Hawk & Handsaw, High Desert Journal, and Kyoto Journal. Catch up with him at www.SimmonsBuntin.com.
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Just the Facts.
 
 

Prospect New Town in Longmont, Colorado

  • 80 acres (previously tree farm)
  • 173 single-family homes and 64 attached residential properties at buildout
  • Planned retail, office, and post office in two-block town center
  • 9 parks, with ice rink and pool planned for future phases
  • Up to 15 different builders
  • Master plan designed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company
  • Developed by Dale Bruns and Kiki Wallace
      
 
     

  
It's a traditional American 'town' built anew with timeless architecture, yet designed with modern needs in mind. It offers its residents the opportunity to
experience the intimacy of a small town atmosphere with all the conveniences our modern life demands. Detached garages and alleyways allow the most attractive elements of the home to come forward where front porches, interesting windows and inviting front doors are the focal point.
 
      — Griffin Marketing

  

    
  
 
 

References.

Asner, Marci. June 1997. "Prospects good for neo-urbanism." Boulder County Business Report. Boulder, Colo.

Callahan, Patricia. April 26, 1998. "Denver: A study in New Urbanism Conference to address city sprawl." The Denver Post. Denver, Colo.

Campbell, Greg. April 4, 1999. "Welcome to Pleasantville: Local builders find that planning a new urbanist development is anything but a black-and-white issue." The Daily Times-Call. Longmont, Colo.

Editors. 1999. "Prospect: Colorado's First 'New Urbanist' Community." Colorado Best Practices. Colorado Sustainability Project, Inc. www.sustainable
colorado.org
.

Editors. 2000. "Prospect New Town." Griffin Marketing. Denver, Colo. www.griffinmarketing.com.

  

Resources.

City of Longmont

Boulder County

Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company

Colorado Sustainability Project, Inc.

Colorado Smart Growth

National Town Builders Association

Congress for New
Urbanism

 

 

 

 
    
  
 
   

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