Walk to what?
Walkability in New Urbanism does not mean sidewalks and a few trails. Everyone has sidewalks and trails, right? Walkability in New Urbanism means creating a “complete community” where people have places to actually walk/bike to. Many studies have shown that successfully developed New Urbanist communities improve public health by creating places where much of what people want and need is accessible by foot or a short bicycle ride. This would include a great coffee shop, the local library, community and neighborhood parks, a farmers market or grocery store, a barber or salon, a great breakfast spot and ultimately places of work. This is the vision Fort Collins has embraced over 20 years of planning the Mountain Visa Sub Area. Montava is designed to make this vision a reality.
If you look at the walkability scores of any decent sized community built in the last 20+ years, you’ll likely be disappointed. Try it by plugging in your address here and see what comes up. https://www.walkscore.com This database uses Google and other data to measure the amenities and trail systems that are walkable and bikeable from any address. Giving a score of 0-100 for walkable, bikeable and transit connectivity. Why does this matter? Conventional development forces people into their cars for everything, increasing pollution, traffic, time away from family, and other negative outcomes. Conventional = "car centric" development.
Another important component of a truly mixed use neighborhood is a variety of home types in close proximity to each other. Think of a natural blend of single family, townhome, apartments, mixed by style, size and income. That is the essence of New Urbanist communities, and exactly opposite of conventional residential development. This photo is my favorite in all the pictures shared in the Montava presentations. It is taken from the living room of a large expensive custom Italian home under construction, looking out across the street at 1,300 sf moderately priced cottage homes. This is a New Urbanist community called Pinewood Forrest outside Atlanta. Where have you seen this in a new development? It only happens within intentionally planned, purposefully managed, New Urbanist communities. It is a beautiful thing to see.
But let’s be frank. Of all the characteristics of New Urbanism, building the amenity base that gives people a place to walk and bike to is the most challenging, and where some New Urbanist communities struggle. They struggle because these communities are often small and isolated from larger populations needed to support a town center, mixed use, people centered community structure. This however, is where Northeast Fort Collins holds its greatest promise. There is already a solid population nearby that have limited amenities or experiences they can easily walk or bike to. Combine that with future new growth in the area intentionally planned for pedestrian and transit connectivity, and we have a very unique opportunity. That doesn’t make it easy, just possible. Imagine Northeast Fort Collins being a place where you can walk across a creek on a wooden bridge to get ice cream after your daughter’s soccer game; where a grandfather can meet his grandkids for story time at the library; where anyone in the area can ride a bike to the farm stand for locally grown organic produce and more from farmers that you actually know; where families can ride their bikes to dinner; and where diversity across a wide range of age, income, culture and ideas is enabled.
That’s a far cry from conventional, but Fort Collins is far from a conventional town.