The Non-Planners Take: Gold Hill Mesa, Colorado Springs

The Non-Planner's Take: Gold Hill Mesa, Colorado Springs, CO

By: Matt Thelen, resident of Gold Hill Mesa

The label “traditional Neighborhood design (TND) alludes to a replication of communities developed in the early 1900’s but today’s reincarnation of TND is a blend of past aesthetics and present amenities. Gold Hill Mesa in Colorado Springs is an example of TND with single family, multifamily, and commercial uses.

Gold Hill Mesa is developed on 210 acres formerly used by the Gold Cycle Mill which operated from 1905-1948. From 1948-2008 the site remained undeveloped due to the challenge of remediating the land from toxins left over from the gold extraction process. Therefore a high density and mixed use planned community was one of the few uses that could exceed the cost of environmental remediation and support development. Today Gold Hill Mesa is the biggest environmental success story of Colorado Springs. Gold Hill Mesa’s future is bright due to its commitment to TND.

The draw to live in a TND is based on two interlocking elements; community spaces and American Foursquare architecture. The interaction between these two elements is intended to encourage a social and sustainable lifestyle. For example, community spaces are emphasized over private spaces. The largest public space adjoins the centrally located community center while smaller pocket parks with unique themes are located peripherally. Cluster mail boxes located in the community center de-clutter the street-scape while creating opportunities for social interaction. Residential streets feature a tree lawn between the side walk and street. Road intersections use scalloped corners to calm traffic and to allow pedestrians a clearer view of traffic. The net effect is a neighborhood that fosters pedestrian activity. In fact, residents from nearby non-planned neighborhoods stroll within Gold Hill Mesa because of its accessibility.

Aesthetics is another draw to live in a TND community. All of the houses feature front porches while garages are located in the back and accessed by an alley. Rectangular shaped lots extend between a street or greenway and an alley. To best utilize the lot space an American Foursquare design is preferred while architectural styles, material types, and colors are encouraged to vary. Only the fence style and color are standardized between homes. Fiberoptic lines within Gold Hill Mesa ensure residents modern convince in communication.

The drawbacks of living in a TND are similar to living in communities with an HOA. It is crucial that TNDs utilize a professionally administered HOA to maintain public spaces and ensure home values. Due to the close proximity of homes, ordinances are needed to control parking, animals, or outside storage because natural buffers are not available. If you feel that you can’t abide with HOA ordinances then a TND community won’t meet your needs. A second drawback is that drainage must be well designed to prevent flooding due to a relatively small portion of permeable surfaces. Last, homebuilders who can’t sell the TND concept will not be able to sell homes.

The benefit of living in a TND is that you live within a community rather than just a home. In exchange for small lot sizes, residents benefit from large public spaces, public art, community events, and sustainable use of natural resources. The goal is to build relationships not fences. Gold Hill Mesa is a singular planned community within Colorado Springs but there is no shortage of current and future residents who value the TND concept.



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