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  THE TOWN PAPER
VOL. 3, NO. 6 -- OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2001
 

New Towns - Prospect

By Jason Miller

"I'm never happy with what we have, and I'm always looking forward to the next thing we build," says Kiki Wallace, the developer of Prospect in Longmont, Colo. Wallace's never-satisfied personality is bearing fruit in his forward-thinking town, which is equal parts daring, eclectic and utterly livable.

Nestled into the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, the 80-acre development boasts a master plan by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), but its architecture tends to steal the spotlight. When the first phase of construction began in September 1996, the homes were traditional -- a dash of Queen Anne Victorian, a splash of simple clapboard. But all that changed with the second phase, in which roughly a third of the housing stock is contemporary, flashy and bold. Half of the homes in the third phase will be modern creations.

Prospect's gutsy steps toward contemporary architecture are already the stuff of legend in the new urbanist world, since very few neotraditional towns have undertaken to include a modern look in their fabric. Until Prospect held its nose and dove in, Seaside's Ruskin Square was the easy answer to the question of whether a TND can incorporate modern architecture successfully.

In the Beginning Wallace tells a story of Prospect's inception that seems almost too easy. He purchased the land -- originally an 80-acre tree farm -- from his family and asked the city of Longmont to consider it for annexation. The City Council was reluctant; they didn't want to see an elite enclave in that area of town. Angered at first, Wallace went home and slept on it, waking in the middle of the night to realize the Council was right. A week later, he read an article about Andrés Duany, grabbed a pencil and "it just kind of fell in my lap."

Granted, it then took about a year to get the city on board, but a DPZ-run charrette followed and, after a two-and-a-half-year wait for approvals, they broke ground.

Only ignorance stood in Wallace's way. No supporting mechanisms were in place for the type of development he envisioned. No city engineers were familiar with the concept. No architects, no planners. Early on, Wallace placed regular calls to DPZ for advice and then relayed their thoughts to the builders.

"Now we're past that," says Wallace, "but time remains the biggest factor. It takes time to do it because there is always reluctance on somebody's part."

Homebuyers are showing no such reluctance. Although Prospect is only about 28 percent built out, it has sold 95 units since sales began five years ago. The relationship of supply and demand is already driving square-foot prices from a starting level of $120 to an impressive $240, a figure that appears to have leveled off recently. The town is not split into burroughs or smaller neighborhoods; it is a single neighborhood ("One big happy," says Wallace.), with 337 lots capable of supporting 570 total units when complete.

So what makes Prospect worth talking about? Wallace believes it's the unique yet coherent architecture, watched over by a strict architectural committee, Wallace, and the town's chief architect, Paul Sofield.

"I think what we do best is we have a much more eclectic mix of architecture, a quicker patina," says Wallace. "We mix it in and the public likes it, although it has created a little tension in the neighborhood. Some people who liked the traditional stuff were upset that the neighborhood was being destroyed, which is probably my fault, since I didn't forewarn the residents as well as I should have. But, generally speaking, the residents seem to be very happy with it."

It takes a certain mindset to live in Prospect, a sort of "roll with it" attitude. The development team is full of explorers who push the parameters, toying with the accepted notions of architecture and planning in their attempts to constantly improve Prospect.

But their approach is far from scattered; indeed, the new ground they break has Wallace intensely concerned that their steps toward an appropriate modern architecture are correct.

"What worries me more than anything is people doing whatever they want to, saying they're doing contemporary, thinking there are no parameters on modern architecture, which has pretty much created suburbia, in my opinion. Architectural blight has occurred because of modernism, but new urbanism has created a forum for good architecture and good design," says Wallace.

At Prospect, color plays a crucial role, too. And that's "color" with a capital C. Kelly Feeney heads the color committee and approves the color choices for every home in Prospect. And what colors they are! Vibrant, sizzling, eye-catching -- and yet all bound together in context. "It's like choreography," says Feeney.

Prospect is a dancer itself, stepping lively to its own percussion section, never satisfied, always moving into new architectural territory. Wallace himself is an impatient pilgrim, constantly looking for the perfect creation within his town.

"There's a little spot that's hidden in the back of some alleys that I'm visualizing as a very warm place, and I'm going to make it happen. I have a feeling it's going to be one of my favorite spots."

For now, anyway.

Learn More: Visit the Web site at www.prospectnewtown.com. For sales information, contact Linda Keseric at 303.684.9999.