Based upon the suggestion of a Colorado Springs friend, I visited a relatively new neighborhood commercial center south of the Castle Pines Golf Course, or northwest of Castle Rock. The neighborhood center, Village at Castle Pines, appeared to be a conventional retail center that is auto-centric from Highway 85; however, I knew from viewing the neighborhood center via Bing (image below) that the center was much more than a conventional retail center. Upon driving into the “Village“, my family and I enjoyed the delightful feel of the street. People were walking, dining outside, conversing and enjoying the beautiful day on the Front Range of Colorado. My assumption was that the patrons of the Village at Castle Pines were predominantly Castle Pines residents or at least very local, as this is a bit hidden from the primary transportation corridors of Colorado.
I was pleased to see how the shops, restaurants and offices addressed the street. It was designed as a compact, pedestrian-scaled neighborhood center, as a neighborhood center should be… with one exception-Residential Presence. The shops had an elegant scale, equipped with 2nd floor habitable space, street trees and a streetscape conducive to an urban setting, but shops alone do not have the ability to give a neighborhood center a 24-hour street life. Neighborhood centers should be places that do not close down as a whole for the evening. To clarify, I am not one that believes that a neighborhood center must have 2nd floor residential in order to qualify as a neighborhood center. I stray from the majority of new urbanists in this regard. Many neighborhood centers and small town central business districts (CBD’s) have been extremely effective at providing great places for people without the direct presence of residential above. It is the adjacency AND the enablement of mobility between the symbiotic uses that provide a 24-hour life to the neighborhood center.