Denver based urban design and landscape architecture studio Civitas has designed elements of native prairie into the Stapleton neighborhood that is taking shape on the north side of I-70. Civitas aims to invert the typical people first development approach and create a prarie-like environment that takes the area back to its native roots.
“The design of the newest neighborhoods at Stapleton has been a very thoughtful effort to intersect urban living with the beauty of the high plains,” says Heidi Majerik, Director of Development at Forest City Stapleton, Inc. “There is respite in the peace and serenity that is inherent to the prairie while the urban form and park design provides interconnectedness not only with the environment but also with one another.”
Stapleton is a master planned community that sits on the site of the former Stapleton International Airport which served as Denver’s primary airport operating from 1929-1995. Aviation operations ceased at Stapleton in 1995 when Denver International Airport opened allowing for a massive development opportunity at the former airport site.
With the open space-directed plan for Stapleton’s newest neighborhoods, north of I-70, featuring Conservatory Green and Willow Park East, Civitas has reversed the landscape typologies it established in Stapleton’s earlier neighborhoods. “Instead of living adjacent to the prairie, Stapleton’s newest residents will be living in the prairie,” explains Civitas design principal Craig Vickers. “The landscape will reflect the natural and organic qualities of the prairie and the cultural influences that made it habitable.”
Civitas studied the natural ecology of this location to determine what it would have been like before jet aircraft were landing and taking off from runways that were constructed at this location. The designers of this project state that there will be both ecological and human benefits captured from the design of these public spaces.
The parks and native prairie included in the development include:
- Uplands Park, an area that will include sculpted earthworks and a traditional lawn
- Prairie Meadows Park, which will stand as the nexus of the park system and will emulate the indigenous landscape with wind-swept dunes and high and low bridges for access to the landscape across drainage ways
- Cottonwood Gallery will allow runners and walkers the opportunity to recreate on trails that meander along creek sides and native vegetation
- Sandhills Prairie will incorporate tall-grass prairie and will segue into athletic fields
“Our objective, as Stapleton neighborhoods expand to the north, is to regenerate this ecosystem for both environmental and human benefit,” said Civitas president Mark Johnson. “People love the parks, but they love the scale and natural form of the open space even more”
More than 250 acres of park, recreational, and open space land comprise this project.
Landscape architects Ann Mullins and Mark Johnson founded Civitas in 1983. Civitas has also designed Denver’s Commons Park and is designing a rooftop park at the San Diego Convention Center.