Monday, February 9, 2009

Heritage Honkerknockers

Had to get the emission test on the car today, which entailed a tour de suburbs, branching out from my own little suburban enclave...into other people's suburban enclaves. Many of which I was familiar with from our house-hunting extravaganza last spring. And...they are all so overwhelmingly similar it kills me. Yes, I know. Suburbs=samity-same blandness is not exactly an original proposition, or even a very accurate one. And yes, even I can tell the difference between the most contrasting of the suburbs. Heritage Greens, for example, which I had the misfortune to get stuck in once on an inadvertently very long run, has an abundance of spartan, spotless houses and absolutely no footpaths, bikepaths, or pedestrian exits of any sort. Heritage Village has a mind-boggling number of cul-de-sacs, and is also surprisingly hilly. Heritage Heights has fantastic views and is also fantastically close to a high-tension powerline (these were the houses we visited saying things like, "$250K for 3000 square feet? And the house is in nice condition? What's that about--oh" as we saw the three-story power tower in the backyard. Ohhhh.) Palos Verdes has a shabby seventies vibe to it, as well as a large proportion of residents in their seventies. Palos Verdes also has a schizophrenic approach to house style--on one street you might find a spectacular modern house, with 20-degree angles on the corner windows, a flat roof, and dramatic carport architecture. Next door, a Tudor-style house with distressed bricks and authentic-looking beams. Next to that, an adobe house, and next to that, your basic unadorned split-level ranch.

Yet, despite the style-of-the-month feel, none of the houses here really feel different. The same with the hundreds of Heritage This and Hunter's Run That suburbs that make up the densely settled Urban Growth Boundary of southern Denver: they all seem like they present basically the same solution to urban/ suburban living. Over and over and over again: one answer. Not the worst answer--most of these suburbs, with the wretched exception of the hermetic Heritage Greens, are very pedestrian-friendly, with stores, schools, and libraries within walking or biking distance. There are bike paths galore, and a decent light rail system. The various homeowners' associations clearly differ on the importance of bluegrass and lawn water, but thanks to some wicked dry summers, even the golf-course-iest of them at least acknowledge the usefulness of xeriscape. Still--still. One answer.

I'm not even sure what the other answers are, just that I'd like to take a peek at them (and preferably within the Urban Growth Boundary, not outside it). Co-housing, maybe. A development of 50% off-the-grid solar-and-geothermal houses. A development of underground houses. Houses built around community gardens, or of all-native materials, or 100% xeric landscaping. You know?


Jess said...

This is so, so interesting, especially since I'm trying to learn about the Denver area and we'll be thinking about buying there sometime soon. Co-housing communities and alternative energy sources and community gardens... there are just so many possibilites.

Oz said...

I grew up in Heritage Greens (well, from 11 on up). And sometimes I felt weird even walking the dog.