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For a century, the 27-acre Elitch Gardens amusement park was an exciting destination for Denver, CO—until the facility moved in the 1990s. Luckily for residents, developers Perry Rose built an amazingly diverse neighborhood called Highlands Garden Village amidst the northwest Denver bungalows.
“There are 52 single family homes,” says the writer Kaid Benfield of the impressive housing diversity, “20 carriage homes above garages, 38 townhomes and condos, 63 apartments for seniors, 74 rental apartments, 33 homes in a co-housing configuration, and 26 live/work lofts. Twenty percent of the homes were priced to be affordable to households earning 50 percent or less of the area median income.”
The wide range of housing arranged to facilitate social interaction proved popular, notes co-developer Jonathan Rose. “Absorption was much faster than anticipated, and it’s because people love community,” he says.
Today, Highlands Garden Village has a walkable center with a natural-foods grocery store, a cafe, a fitness club, and 10 other businesses. A restored theater hosts performances and community events. The village also features community gardens and small parks—one with a restored Carousel serving as a pavilion. Within a block or two, a half dozen restaurants, two bars, and a bowling alley provide activities for residents.
Most New Urbanist developments offer some environmental advantages, but Highlands Garden Village is set apart by its comprehensive approach to resource conservation. The site presented opportunities for reuse, starting with the land itself, the historic theater, and the town carousel. Trees and gardens were salvaged — as were 30 tons of concrete. The developers went to substantial lengths to use recycled construction materials and to make the homes energy efficient. The community’s multifamily and senior apartments all employ wind power.
The historic Denver street grid surrounds the community, allowing residents to take advantage of existing streets, public utilities, mass transit, and neighborhood goods and services. Highlands Garden Village’s blocks are smaller than the typical Denver blocks, and deflections and T-intersections calm internal traffic and make drivers more careful. Also, the developer fought hard to narrow streets beyond what was allowed by code—even delaying the development to gain the approvals.
Highlands Garden Village offers residents a lifestyle that improves their connection to community, while cutting their automobile reliance. Two bus stops located along the neighborhood’s edge offer a 10- to 15-minute transit ride to downtown Denver. The Walk Score Of Highlands Garden Village is 86: “very walkable.”
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At the turn of the millennium, the 26-acre Pearl Brewery in San Antonio was abandoned and desolate—a collection of empty buildings and pavement with only five trees.
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