New Urbanism Comes to Denver

by : Stacy Neir

Over the years, suburban development has become nearly synonymous with urban sprawl. Nether city nor countryside, the suburbs as we've come to know them plant rows and rows of identical houses in the middle of nowhere and surround them with space that isolates them from the street and neighbors.

After generations of planned suburban life, America has developed intimate knowledge of both the benefits and pitfalls of this kind of development. Built for cars more than pedestrians and for private space more than association, the design of most suburbs works counter to community life rather than in favor of it. Making a community walkable is essential to a robust community spirit and unfortunately is what's lacking in most suburban developments. Though they may in fact have sidewalks, these often lead nowhere.

Over the past few decades, addressing these pitfalls has given rise to a new school of thought in urban planning known as new urbanism. New urbanisists are taking the traditional suburban model and infusing it with diversity, walk ability and shared spaces. Storefronts and offices are mixed in with houses. Housing choices include apartments, townhouses, semi-detached homes, cottages and condos along with single-family homes.The new designs create street scapes along with the neighborhoods. Green space, plazas, boulevards and community squares become integral to the design rather than frivolous add-ons. Homes are deliberately close to services - with schools, community centers, public pools and shops all within walking distance.


1. A discernible city center

3. A variety of housing types to accommodate multiple income levels and family types

2. Homes built within a 5 to 10 minute walk of the center

4. Ample green space, parks and playgrounds

5. Narrow streets that favor pedestrians and bikes over cars. Sidewalks and pathways that encourage walking.

6. Mixed use buildings that accommodate shops, offices and retail stores. Residents should be able to do their weekly shopping within the community

7. Increased density and more efficient land use

8. Reliable public transportation that accommodates people who choose not to have cars and community members who don't drive including seniors and teenagers

9. Sustainable, energy efficient and eco-friendly design

10. Streets that are connected to one another providing multiple routes to any destination


The planned community of Stapleton is a great example of a new urban development just ten minutes from downtown Denver. Built on an old airfield, in 2001 Stapleton developers began a 15 year project of reclaiming and recycling the land to create a vibrant suburban community. Tree lined streets, parks, traditional architecture and front porches make this area supremely walkable. Thirty percent of the community's 47K acres are dedicated green space and with most homes less than a ten minute walk from shops, schools and offices, there are plenty of places to go. Housing options range from low $100k town homes all the way to $1m estates making it easy for all kinds of folks to call Stapleton home.