Smart Growth Illustrated
Highlands' Garden Village, Denver, Colorado
Highlands' Garden Village is a compact, mixed-use, urban infill community built on the site of an abandoned amusement park near downtown Denver. The site was abandoned in late 1994 when the Elitch Gardens Amusement Park moved to a larger location near lower downtown Denver. The developer, Perry/Affordable Housing Development Company, took advantage of the site's urban location and natural and historic amenities to build a compact neighborhood that provides housing, office, retail, parks, and entertainment. The 27-acre site contains 291 homes, as well as 200,000 square feet of commercial and live/work space, while still preserving and restoring 140,000 square feet of open space.
The community offers a wide variety of housing choices, including single-family detached homes, townhouses, carriage homes, garden-style apartments, senior housing, and a co-housing community. The co-housing community uses a common house and shared public space to create social opportunities that foster a tight-knit social network among the residents. Forty percent of the senior housing and 20 percent of the apartments are affordably priced.
The vibrant intensity of land use works on this site because the developer engaged the surrounding community in a series of workshops where the neighbors could provide input into the design of the project. The edges of the plan reflect the adjacent neighborhoods. New single-family homes face older ones on three sides of the development. On the fourth side, a major commercial street, some 200,000 square feet of flexible commercial space offers restaurants, studios, and shops with live/work town homes and offices above. All buildings face onto the street with parking on the street and in interior lots. There is a density gradient, with highest densities near the existing commercial area and lowest densities near existing neighborhoods of single-family homes.
In addition to providing a wide variety of homes in a small space, the developer is preserving the unique cultural heritage of the site by renovating the historic Elitch Theater for arts and performances. The nearby carousel house will also be preserved as a community gathering pavilion. This cultural attraction is expected to draw people to the neighborhood's cafes, shops, farmer's market, offices, and artist studios. The commercial and cultural spaces are oriented around plazas and gardens. Sidewalks and roadways that connect these spaces are designed like country lanes to encourage walking and biking. On-site bus stops offer computers that tell when the next bus will be going to downtown Denver and nearby shopping areas. The community also offers a car-share program that has one electric and two natural gas-powered vehicles so members can rent a car by the hour when they need a vehicle for occasional errands.
In 2005 Highlands' Garden Village was awarded the EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in the category of Overall Excellence. For more information on the award, please view the 2005 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement brochure (PDF) (20 pp, 868 K, about PDF).