Highlands Garden Village
Highlands Garden Village

The former Elitch Gardens Amusement Park had entertained families for over 100 years on this site before relocating to a larger facility. The historic Elitch Theater had been an important stop on the circuit for aspiring entertainers from WWI through the early 60’s. Generations of people loved the Carousel, Mr. Twister and the always-showy gardens that gave the place a unique Victorian character. Civitas was engaged to assist the Perry Rose Companies to plan a new mixed-use neighborhood. This project was widely regarded when it opened as among the first and most complete new mixed infill neighborhoods in America.

Civitas had to invent many new ideas and codes to enable the development. Community meetings, hearings, and many alternatives led to this plan which emerged from a close collaboration with Peter Calthorpe. It was both a test and demonstration of applying the (then) new principals of new urbanism to a constrained 18 acre site surrounded by stable neighborhoods.

Civitas developed the plan, design guidelines and codes that enabled the project and the designed the streets, alleys, public spaces and landscapes of the entire site including preservation of the historic theater and carousel buildings and portions of the original arrival garden procession. The project is perhaps the first in modern memory to include small lot single family, granny flats, co-housing, senior housing, affordable and market rate multi-family, and a variety of local retail and commercial uses including a small format grocer.

The plan grows out of the many quirks of the site including a buried irrigation canal, historic buildings and landscape features, and neighbors who helped shape the development from the edges inward. The true success of the project is in the tight-knit community, which emerged early, fueled by the focus on community gardens, green spaces and mixed-use streets. The project is a well-known and studied social and infill development success and the testing ground for many of the ideas that underlie Civitas projects such as Belmar Village and Stapleton, and the projects of many other designers nation-wide.

Client: Perry Rose Community Developers
Partners: Calthorpe Associates
Completed: 1999
Budget: $100 million +
Location: Denver