Big Talk About a Small Planned Community

The car-free, 1-square-mile town, called Cyclocroft, would be home to 50,000 people.

Earlier this year, two American expatriates who live in the Netherlands announced a proposal to build a “Dutch-style” planned community between Longmont and Boulder. The car-free, 1-square-mile town, called Cyclocroft, would be home to 50,000 people. 

“The shared interest in debt-free, lightweight living has brought this community together to make a newly built ‘old’ place to call home,” the organization B4Place wrote on its website, adding that Cyclocroft is designed as an alternative to suburban sprawl. B4Place co-founders Tara Ross and John Giusto, who are from Texas and California, initially said they were teaming up with Longmont-based personal finance blogger Pete Adeney. 

While Cyclocroft generated some media attention, it is not a development but a “property experiment design concept,” Ross says. “We created it to test the market viability for such a compact, newly built place.” Response was “overwhelmingly positive,” she says, with about 400 people commenting in social media threads or contacting B4Place directly.

The high density, walkable town concept has been promoted for decades by everyone from the Urban Land Institute to affordable housing advocates, says Michael P. Kercheval, executive director of the CU Real Estate Center at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado-Boulder. “People say if we can get rid of cars, it will be good for the environment, and we will have a great sense of community and socialization.” 

While this iteration of New Urbanism has its advantages, residents would still have to commute to jobs in Boulder, Longmont or Denver. In addition, the land that B4Place mentions, which is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is not for sale. 

B4Place is likely a trial balloon, Kercheval says. “Developers test the waters to find out where they can get approval for a project,” he says. “It’s prudent from a real estate perspective to ask, is this commercially and economically viable, rather than tapping into emotional trends.” 

Ross acknowledges there are no active plans to build Cyclocroft, and that Adeney is not part of the project anymore. “We’re just trying to give voice to and articulate a vision for people who want to live more compactly,” she says.

Advances in autonomous cars and other technology have made these compact city concepts relevant lately, says Mark Lee Levine, Ph.D., a professor at Burns School of Real Estate/Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. Levine and Libbi Levine Segev, also a professor, have done much research on driverless mobility and its impact on communities. A more likely scenario will be a combination of electric vehicles, shared rides and autonomous vehicles.

 “Those together are going to be very attractive,” he says. “That’s maybe the compromise as opposed to isolating ourselves, and pulling up to a parking lot outside an enclave where nobody can take cars.” 

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