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Traditional Neighborhoods

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

Since World War II, American residential construction has been dominated by a car dependent development pattern that is fundamentally broken. Our ability to hop in a car and drive 20 miles to services or experiences has become our ‘new normal’. It hurts the environment, damages our families and isolates us from each other.


There is a practical way to know if you live in a car dependent community. Type your address here, in the walk-score web site. While there is no perfect measurement, if your address is below 40 walk-score, you likely live in a car dependent community where just about everything needed in life requires driving. If an address is below 10, there’s no question about this.


In his book Walkable City, Jeff Speck has two simple definitions of “neighborhood” and “sprawl”.


Traditional neighborhoods are compact, diverse, and walkable. “A true neighborhood has a center and an edge, and contains a wide variety of activities in close proximity within an armature of pedestrian friendly streets and public spaces.”


Compact, diverse, walkable neighborhoods have been the historic building blocks of cities for most of recorded human history, until cars took over.


His definition of sprawl is “vast, homogeneous and unwalkable”. Speck also notes that “since it is organized around the automobile, sprawl has no use for transit.”


Most of today's development reflects this definition of sprawl. Why? Because it is easier, cheaper, lower risk and lends itself to the mass production style of housing construction that currently dominates the industry. It is driven mainly by capital and risk, not human experience and community building.


Fort Collins rightly expects more, and values people-centric over car-centric development. Northeast Fort Collins will develop eventually-the question is not "if" but "how". Montava is designed to meet Speck's definition of a true neighborhood; to be people centric, with a center and an edge and containing a wide variety of activities and services in close proximity within an armature of pedestrian friendly streets and public spaces.


Concept Rendering of a NE City Rec Center & Community Event Pavilion

It is not easy to break this development pattern that is a deeply rooted system. Many of us have never known what it's like to walk to the store, the park, the Montessori school or the library for kids story time with grandparents. Or how about riding your bike to school, to art lessons, to a community concert or a yoga class at the Rec Center? It only sounds idealistic because we’ve allowed ourselves to lose touch with what is possible.


As DPZ and others have demonstrated, new communities really can be built this way.


Newtown Saint Charles walk score is over 60

Norton Commons, with a good main street has walk-scores over 60.

Kentlands is over 70 with little transit

The Village at Hendrix in Arkansas is over 50

Prospect Newtown in Longmont CO is over 40

Westhaven, in Franklin TN is over 40

Vickery Village, in Cumming GA is over 40

Baldwin Park in Orlando gets a walk score between 50-70 depending on the address



New people-centric communities can be built that are diverse, help tackle our environmental challenges, improve public health and social fabric, and add to overall community wealth. We have a unique opportunity to do this together in Northeast Fort Collins.

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