Housing development design keeps drinkers out of cars

Fermantarium has a story about a new housing community in Colorado designed, in part, to make it easier for people to drink socially without having to drive somewhere.
200709040907Every Friday night, residents of the new urbanist community Bradburn Village in Westminster, Colorado gather for their weekly park party. Adults socialize over beer and wine while the kids play together. Bradburn is designed to encourage social interaction among neighbors, and judging by the packed park parties and the incredible number of social events here, it works.

Every home in Bradburn includes a large front porch--not just a token 2 foot concrete stoop. Garages are all in the back, and homes here also have very small setbacks (the distance between the house and the sidewalk, or front yard), meaning the porches sit right above the sidewalks. This means people sitting on their front porches easily see neighbors walking by, and they stop to talk, creating a community bond that is so elusive in most traditional suburban neighborhoods.



  1. “Traditional suburban neighborhoods” are a relatively new design. Before the Baby Boom and the flight to suburbia, the design featured here WAS traditional!

  2. I am an urban planner. I am glad this story made it to BoingBoing – not only because of my profession (passion) and that I like to have a beer (or two) but because a lot of people I know grew up in the burbs. Yes, they had sidewalks, but they had no place to walk to! They had those useless 2-foot porches. There are a lot of new urbanist developments popping up, and judging by the prices, people are willing to pay for community. Prices will come down as more people realize – not being isolated is great way to live!

  3. Our street, in Austin, Tx, does this (indoors mostly) every Tuesday and it is quite cool. The kids get to socialize with other aged kids and the adults get to drink a little while getting to know neighbors. It is not really about porches and housing design, it is just taking the initiative to do it and having common interests among neighbors (we all have kids).

  4. Wow.

    Better community, knowing your neighbors, your kids less likely to be squished by cars (because the cars for the neighborhood are out back in the alley) — let’s please ignore all of that and just look at this as a model for safe drinking.

    Nice call, guys.

  5. Bravo for the posting. When anyone proposes highrises as the answer to San Francisco, or any other city’s urban problems consider that designs must change first:

    A few years ago I had a conversation with the architect of the new downtown highrise I was living it. I had been trying to meet the neighbors and commented on how one couldn’t see anyone’s balcony near to your own given the shape of the building. He responded that modern buildings were designed to limit, or ideally, eliminate tenant interaction. Walkways are hidden so no one can see you enter or exit; balconies have privacy walls in between, etc. Interaction leads to conflict and conflict leads to management time and expense.

    But lack of conflict only means harmony in a spreadsheet.

  6. Funny how “new” urbanism isn’t new at all. This is exactly the design of my neighbourhood where all the houses went up in the 1890’s. Sure, I have a tiny yard and can piss out of one of my windows and into my neighbour’s house (in theory), but that’s a small cost compared to the ability to actually walk somewhere.

  7. Yes, this kind of design is fascinating, I have a new name for it: The Urban City. People live in houses and townhouses with deep front porches that they sit out on. People park their cars in back, accessible by a Parking Access Road that I will shorten to the nickname “alley.” People sit out on their porches and talk to their neighbors, watching all the foot traffic go by on sidewalks, like kids rollerskating to the corner store or Dad coming back from the local bar. Take the word “suburban” and modify it, put enough people in an area that the density is at a high enough level that people are friends with their neighbors… Yup, this “new” way of living should be called, The Urban City.

  8. I agree with Guyzero (#5) – this is nothing new, but rather returning to a way of life we almost lost.

    Earlier this week I saw a sign along the highway for a new housing development bragging “No Sidewalks!” in big red type. Who on earth considers that a benefit?

    I live in a 100+ year old house in a medium sized midwestern city. All the houses in my neighborhood have either front porches or stoops. Everyone also has small back yards, but guess what? Our kids play with other kids at the park instead of alone in a backyard play structure. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  9. Is anyone else picking up a heavy ersatz vibe off of this place? It seems like Celebration, Florida or Levittown updated with better ideas on urban planning and design. All of the homes are built by a handful of companies, either from stock plans or high-price custom designs. I wonder if there will be any poor people allowed there or if that is “old urbanism.”

    Here’s the link to the location in Google maps:
    Notice anything missing?


  10. A couple of years ago, I wrote up a plan for what I called “Neighborhoods with a Sense of Community”. This development sounds something like mine, except that mine has the homes clustered around and facing a common area, with no roadways and no cars permitted in the central common area. All roadways, driveways, and garages are in the back, the “service” side of the home.

  11. Yep, sounds just like our 130 year-old house in downtown urban Indianapolis, where you can walk anywhere and socializing with the neighbors is easy. And we have large backyards, too. Plus we have the benefit of gorgeous, enormous shade trees that have been around as long as the neighborhood, as well.

    North of Indianapolis, in Carmel, Indiana, they’re building a housing development similar to the one described in your post – I can’t imagine why anyone would live there, when they can have the real thing 20 minutes away.

  12. “All of the homes are built by a handful of companies, either from stock plans or high-price custom designs. I wonder if there will be any poor people allowed there or if that is “old urbanism.””

    How do you think traditional homes in older traditional neighborhoods got there? Have you ever walked through a turn of the century neighborhood and noticed the same house in multiple locations? People have been buying off-the-shelf designs for a long, long time.

    As an urban planner myself (oddly enough, I also like beer) I’m glad to see one of these utopias doing something worthwhile by getting folks sloshed. Otherwise, I don’t have much love for New Urbanism. You don’t have to search too hard to find plenty of valid criticism of New Urbanist communities. Most residents of these places still drive everywhere, they don’t know their neighbors, the architecture tends towards the weirdly cutesy, they’re not diverse socially or economically, they’re still separated from the surrounding area, etc.

  13. Most of the New Urbanist communities I’ve seen discussed don’t have arterials lined with a continuous wall of row houses that have service businesses on their first floors — dry cleaning, shoe repair, bakery, Chinese takeout, et cetera — and they’re not built around mass transit. This makes them about as realistic as a Thomas Kinkade landscape.

    The density of a walkable neighborhood is too high for everyone to have automobiles and drive to work. The density of neighborhoods built around the assumption of universal car ownership is too low — i.e., the distances are too great — for a foot-and-transit lifestyle; and anyway it’s too diffuse to support a mix of stores and services that’s not only walkable but sufficient.

    Furthermore, nobody limits their car use to driving to their nearest neighborhood stores. They go to the discount extravaganza in some leapfrogging suburban development. Their money goes to national chains, not community businesses.

    My husband and I live in an extremely advanced retro-urbanist lifestyle development called Sunset Park. We figure it’s the coming thing. And if Segways were less expensive, it’d be golden.

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