Windler: Cultivating A Vibrant Future In A New Community

In Aurora, Colorado, a new mixed-use community is taking shape. Don Provost from Alberta Development, and Chris Fellows, with whom we’ve worked closely for years – including on the Painted Prairie development in Aurora – are bringing their vision for Windler to life. The site is centrally located with convenient access to downtown Denver, Denver International Airport, both I-70 and E470, and more. But Windler’s value lies in its people-centric, community-oriented philosophy. Don and Chris don’t want to stick to current standards. They are truly motivated to do what’s right for society. We are too, which is why we get excited by projects like this.

Once complete, Windler’s 830 acres will comprise a total of 16 neighborhoods and approximately 150 acres of green space; and such a complex project requires collaboration. Denver-based PCS Group has been an important partner developing the strong foundation of the master plan and leading the master plan entitlement. Civitas joined forces to lead the community placemaking design and the creation of each neighborhood’s layout and design characteristics. Civitas is also working on the overall open space and park design alongside PCS (on the Windler Loop linear park and Butterfly Park), and Superbloom (on 1881 Park) in addition to the Discovery Park and North Park that are being designed by Civitas. Together with lead engineers, Olsson, this Windler team is working closely to help achieve an optimal balance of density and open space – which means maximizing both. In some cases, this has meant taking the project to Aurora’s City Council and advocating for changes to the zoning codes. This is another reason why Civitas is involved. We like pushing boundaries.

BUILDING COMMUNITY AT ALL SCALES

Envisioning a modern homestead, Chris and Don’s vision is to pay respect to life on the prairie but redefine it; to reinterpret old fashioned living-off-the-land values for today’s modern American lifestyle. Each of Windler’s sixteen neighborhoods will have its own character, while all are unifed by a fresh and forward-thinking approach to connectivity, convenience and sustainability. Painted Prairie, which was recently named national community of the year by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), is about a mile from Windler, and takes a similar approach to diversity, accessibility, connectivity and community-building. But Windler is a little different. It’s more dense than Painted Prairie, and its open space is more fibrous – woven throughout the community as a network of small, neighborhood parks.

This “network” idea drives a majority of our design decisions. Our intent is that the network of places contributes to creating a network of people. Each of the neighborhood parks is highly amenitized in order to encourage people of all ages to participate in play, fitness, or just plain old hanging out out, a little longer and more often, and to put social life at the center of Windler. We’re designing places that are both functional and beautiful, hoping people will feel proud to be part of the neighborhood.

CONNECTING TO WORK, COMMUNITY, FAMILY AND EARTH

Pedestrian experience is a priority, promoting safety, connectivity and aesthetics. We’re digging into user research to understand what the individual user experience looks and feels like as they walk through all of Windler’s spaces. The view corridor to the west, toward downtown Denver and the front range of the Rockies, drives the intentional diagonal alignment of several key streets and open spaces within Windler, and we’re taking every opportunity to embrace native landscape that not only reflects the prairie, but helps to regenerate the prairie.

Superbloom and Shape Architecture have collaborated to design 1881 Heritage Farm Park, which is already getting important recognition within the design industry for its ambition to serve as a focal point in Windler. Marked by historic farm silos, 1881 is sited on a 15-acre parcel that was originally part of Henry and Anna Windler’s centennial homestead. It will offer flex space for agricultural and educational uses, as well as farm-to-table dining. 

Promoting a “green” lifestyle is fundamental. The development team is motivated to turn Windler into a net energy generator, especially in the community’s commercial components. And individual homes are being designed with cutting edge strategies to reduce energy consumption and costs for homeowners – not because “sustainability” is such a buzzword, but because Don and Chris share a deep rooted philosophy for long-term growth and resilience, and truly want to be responsible.

CREATING TIME AND SPACE FOR WHAT MATTERS

With diverse home types ranging from small compact units to single family homes, and from rentals to sales, Windler will attract diverse populations, by design. A core belief is that everyone deserves access to sophisticated, walkable, suburban living with a mix of green spaces, recreation, shopping, dining and workspaces close to home. The developers are providing 3.5 acres to Aurora’s housing authority, strategically located to be near amenities too – truly “fair” housing.

There will be two town centers – Village North and Village South – each designed to represent a new model for community mixed-use. For example, zoning codes require a 24’ buffer between commercial and residential uses, but rather than just create voids of empty space, we see a valuable opportunity to create useful and attractive flex space that connects people and businesses – more space for people to gather and linger. Civitas is developing design guidelines for Village North, and the development team will stay involved in commercial leasing to ensure the proper mix of community-serving retail that they’ve envisioned from the start. 

CULTIVATING A VIBRANT FUTURE

The villages are being designed as we type, and many of Windler’s sixteen neighborhoods are currently under review by the city. We’ll continue working on the neighborhood plans and guidelines, including landscape and lighting standards and more. Civitas is also serving as a consultant to several of the homebuilders who are contributing to bringing Windler to life, helping them meet the standards set by the master plan and design guidelines.

Chris and Don are ambitious, and Windler is moving at a fast pace, but we’re ambitious too. Even when we’re working quickly, we like to go deep, and give ourselves permission to back up, to ask “what if there’s a better way?” and to rethink rather than accept standards (even zoning codes). When we – all of us – consider where it’s important to push for something more, something better, then, as Windler’s new website says, “together we will cultivate a vibrant future.”

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