They’re popping up in Denver’s hot neighborhoods faster than Starbucks and marijuana dispensaries: square modern townhomes that replace old bungalows and Victorian homes.
While they deliver more affordable housing in a city starved for this, they’re also opening a Pandora’s box of controversy.
This new townhome style generally offers three stories, often with a rooftop patio. The most controversial designs are those that run perpendicular to the street, with the home entrances on the interior of the lot, rather than facing the road. Called “garden court” townhomes, they often offer little more than a concrete sidewalk between the strips of townhomes, with nary a flower in sight.
“We get these townhouse products where the garden court is anything but a garden,” said Denver City Councilman Rafael Espinoza at a meeting on the issue. Along with Councilman Wayne New, Espinoza has proposed a one-year moratorium on some of these developments, according to the Denver Post.
The buildings are particularly popular in gentrifying neighborhoods such as Jefferson Park and Berkeley and are quickly changing the face of the city.
On the plus side, they offer price points attractive to first-time homebuyers looking to settle in the city. They also often provide expansive city views and floor plans appealing to those seeking roommates.
Developers note that they meet a need. “We sell 80% to people between 30 and 35 (years old) and 20% to people in their early 50s,” Don Gooden, owner of Urban Vision LLC, told the Post. “I think the appeal is to live in a townhome, because a townhome doesn’t have condo dues. It’s what the younger generation wants.”
On the downside, however, the townhomes are replacing more charming old-style homes, increasing neighborhood density and minimizing privacy. And many decry the look of rows and rows of boxy homes. One city councilman told the Post that some of these buildings “resemble a prison.”
As the city’s need for housing continues to grow, developing attractive, economical options may require thinking outside the box.