Best refurb burb: Stapleton

Erik Rank
In Denver

The category: Neighborhoods rising from former sites of airports and institutions, making use of precious space.

The stats: 12 miles east of downtown Denver; population 5,000 and growing.

The residents: Mike and Elizabeth King (32 and 33). Mike, a lawyer, just made partner. Elizabeth works in management and leadership consulting.

How they got here: They moved from Lincroft, New Jersey, when Mike took a job with a Denver law firm. They wanted to be close to culture, yet be in a neighborhood great for walking. "In New Jersey, we lived in an older, more established neighborhood but didn't really get to know our neighbors," says Mike.

Why they're never leaving: A community-oriented plan with garages on rear alleys and front porches (common traits of many successful towns). The 15-minute commute to downtown Denver. A four-bedroom, three-bath, 2,900-square-foot house across from a pocket park and two blocks from a green-belt. "I imagined that the park was where we would play Wiffle ball and have cookouts with neighbors, and that's exactly what has happened," Mike says.


The story behind the burb: When the last jet took off from Stapleton Airport in 1995, a new idea landed: the concept for a 4,700-acre, sustainably oriented community close to downtown Denver. Nearly one-quarter of the land is reserved for parks and open space, and concrete from the runways was recycled into construction. The tree-lined streets are organized around East 29th Avenue Town Center (stores and such), with schools, offices, and parks nearby.

Want in? Housing prices start around $100K and reach more than $1 million for semicustom Urban Estate homes. Currently 1,900 homes and more than 300 apartments are occupied. The goal is to have a community of 8,000 homes and 4,000 apartments in about 15 years.

Other refurb burbs we love

  • Bayport Alameda, CA, used to be part of the Alameda Naval Air Station near Oakland. Its houses face common landscaped areas.
  • Main Street North in Boulder, CO's Holiday Neighborhood is a compact enclave of restaurants, shops, and houses where a drive-in movie theater used to operate.
  • Rivermark in Santa Clara, CA, on the site of a former state hospital, makes density a virtue with pedestrian alleys and a wide array of housing choices.
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