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
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
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,"
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.