The Best Cottage Communities - 2008


cottage neighborhoods - Noisette
Best Cottage Neighborhoods - Arbolera de Vida
2008 Bes tCottages Westside Kansas City, M0

During each of the three years immediately prior to its ceasing publication, Cottage Living magazine
published its choices for the Top Ten Cottage Neighborhoods. For those of you not fortunate enough
to have seen these lists, we are re-publishing them for your files.

The first list, originally issued in 2006, included ten older, established neighborhoods across the country,
while the last list, 2008, focused on new communities with a varied mix of architectural styles ranging from
Lowcountry cottages to a southwest "pueblo" design. Here is the list for 2008, along with summaries
published by the magazine for each local community.

These ten were selected from hundreds of communities and feature "... places with porches and gardens,
parks and playgrounds; streets where you can stroll to locally owned shops and restaurants; areas with
architecture that makes your heart skip a beat; places where neighbors know your name and are trustworthy,
dependable, and free for a cookout on Friday night."


Top 10 cottage neighborhoods for 2008*

2008BestCottages/serenbe.jpgSerenbe,  Palmetto GA

Urban meets rural in this community south of Atlanta.

"We're close to Atlanta, but at night we can see a million stars," says Maripat Newington, who moved to Serenbe from Atlanta with her husband, Greg, and two children. "It's the combination of great food, art, nature, and people." The core philosophy is growth that allows for land preservation. Begun in 2002 with an expected build-out of more than 600 homes, the 900-acre greenfield community will leave 70 percent of its woods, meadows, and wetlands untouched.

Today, there's a village called Selborne, with homes, shops, restaurants, and other businesses, and two other villages are in the works. All homes at Serenbe face a village street and back up to one of four types of preserved land: forest, wildflower meadow, organic farm, or pasture.

"It suits the split personality in each of us," says Serenbe founder Steve Nygren. "If we wake up and want to interact with others, we go out the front door for a Sunday paper or cappuccino. If we want to retreat, we step out back." Farther out back, residents find an organic farm that supplies a local farmers' market, a pair of Serenbe restaurants, and members of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

cottage homes in Camden NJBaldwin's Run, Camden NJ

Traditional neighborhood design and new homes spark a miracle turnaround for this community near Philadelphia.

The "before and after" is astounding. Everything changed-even the neighborhood's name. Formerly known as Westfield Acres, the gang-infested, physically deteriorating public housing project made daily life hell for its residents and spread blight to surrounding historic neighborhoods. Tacking city and state funding onto a $35 million federal HOPE VI grant, the Housing Authority of the City of Camden (HACC) demolished Westfield Acres and, with the help of private developer Pennrose Properties and a nonprofit organization called St. Joseph's Carpenter Society, redeveloped the land into a mixed-income community of rental units and attractive owner-occupied homes. Today, the peaceful, thriving neighborhood is called Baldwin's Run.

"My parents wouldn't allow me to sit outside on the steps," remembers Nia Timmons, who was lucky enough to be transferred to another development. Today, she's back and raising two children in Baldwin's Run. "It's a pleasure to sit outside now. Everyone comes together as a community."

affordable cottages - Northwest Crossing

Northwest Crossing,  Bend OR 

This walkable neighborhood near Bend, Oregon emphasizes smart growth and integration with its environment.

People move to Bend, in Oregon's high desert, for outdoor action-limitless mountain biking and hiking trails, world-class fly-fishing streams, challenging golf courses, and skiing and snowboarding in the Cascade Mountains, closer to Bend than the average American's daily commute. So imagine also finding a neighborhood like NorthWest Crossing, where proximity to all those wonderful activities is matched by an equally healthy quality of life.

Begun in 2001 and built partially on a former ponderosa pine tree farm, the 486-acre development falls just within the western edge of the city's Urban Growth Boundary, a line all Oregon municipalities must establish in order to curb suburban sprawl. The mixed-use Traditional Neighborhood Design centers on a circular 5-acre park and retains many of the original ponderosa pines, giving it a lived-in feel.

"Everybody walks," says Christi Haynes, who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Bend "for the lifestyle." And "everybody says 'Hi.' I'll meet my girlfriends at NorthWest Crossing for lunch and they'll say, 'No wonder you wanted to come here. You know everybody.' It's true. I feel like I belong."

2008 Best Cottages - parkviewParkview, Redding CA

Parkview is a small traditional pocket neighborhood within a larger cottage community.

New Urban Builders, a developer, was experienced in creating greenfield communities using Traditional Neighborhood Design principles. But could the company use what it had learned about housing variety, front porches, walkable streets, and alley access to plug a 3-plus-acre hole in a struggling older community?

The older community was the roughly 288-acre neighborhood of Parkview in Redding, a city known for its sprawl. Parkview had seen better days: Crime was up, and many homes were neglected. To turn things around, the Redding Redevelopment Agency and then-city manager Mike Warren energized the neighborhood association to pump effort and money into improvements.

Part of the redevelopment was a 33-home infill community built by New Urban Builders. Filled with colorful cottages on smaller, more sociable lots, it symbolizes Parkview's comeback. Redevelopment has not been easy. And some critics have decried the city's practice of relocating renters. Still, says local Bill Ulch, residents have "made it an actual living space rather than something you hide from." 

2008 Best Cottages AgritopiaAgritopia, Gilbert AZ

This community near Phoenix stays true to the land's agricultural heritage.

If only all farmers were as resourceful as Joe Johnston. When he felt the development pressure encroaching into Gilbert from Phoenix, he didn't throw up his hands and sell out. He shrank his farming operations and built his own community, one that emphasized neighborliness, quality of life, pedestrians over automobiles, and-this is important-the land's farming heritage. "I asked myself what kind of community I would like to live in," says Joe.

He started reading books and visiting beloved older neighborhoods in Phoenix and Pasadena, California. The result is the uniquely named Agritopia, a Traditional Neighborhood Design with Southwest vernacular homes, a school, playing fields, a unique dog park, and a working 15-acre farm at the core.

"We love living here because our house is close to the street," says Brian Ruffentine of the home he shares with his wife and three children. "There's a low fence line, and we're always talking to our neighbors or throwing a Frisbee or watching the kids skateboard. We spend more time in our front yard than in our beautiful backyard."

cottage community - Arbolera de VidaArbolera de Vida, Albuquerque NM

A former industrial site near downtown Albuquerque is reborn as an
affordable urban cottage neighborhood.

As the name suggests, Arbolera de Vida, or orchard of life, is an enlivening force in Albuquerque, offering low-income residents affordable housing and a community that instills pride. It wasn't always this way. Until a decade ago, the 27-acre plot of land just north of the city center was home to a run-down sawmill, broad expanses of dusty ground, and hundreds of feet of chain-link fence. Today, there are 56 townhomes and casitas (duplexes) with another 37 to be constructed, all clustered amid newly planted trees. 

A playground, recently built with lots of volunteer help, beckons neighborhood children. A biking/walking trail leads to Rio Grande State Park and Old Town, the city's historic district and a major draw for tourists. "People are always shocked when they come here," says Pam Riley, a Sawmill Community Land Trust staff member. They say, "This is affordable housing?" "Just because people are getting subsidies doesn't mean their homes can't be beautiful."

cottages in Boulder COHoliday Neighborhood, Boulder CO

The city of Boulder partners with private developers to build an urban neighborhood with walkable streets and moderately priced housing.

No, this is not a resort community. The newly developed mixed-use neighborhood was named for the twin-screen Holiday Drive In Theater that operated on this north Boulder site from 1969 to 1988. The recently refurbished marquee still stands, visible from the community gardens and the bike path along U.S. 36. Easy Rider Lane was named after the first feature film to play here.

And when the weather is warm, the locals catch outdoor movies on an inflatable screen in Holiday Park, near the original location of the drive-in.

The movie ties are just the beginning of a long list of what's right with this community. A model public-private partnership, the Holiday Neighborhood has designated more than 40 percent of its housing units as permanently affordable, which fills a great need (and is quite a feat) in Boulder, where real estate prices have skyrocketed in recent years. And it does it with urban panache, offering a range of housing styles, including live/work spaces for artists, pocket parks, a shared garden for vegetables, and the latest in green design, including rooftop solar panels.

2008 Best Cottages Westside Kansas City_MoWestside, Kansas City, MO

Locals drive the efforts to revive the spirit of an older neighborhood without pricing out the original residents.

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Kansas City, Westside is a collection of mostly late-19th-century homes-simple frame and brick two-story Victorians with front porches and the occasional storage shed. Westside's fortunes waxed and waned during the 20th century, but thanks to the hard work of many dedicated residents, including a large family-oriented Hispanic population, the neighborhood is safe and economically sound today, with a diverse and creative mix of people.

"Everything is right here," says Stephanie Shirazi, a Westside resident since 1992, referring not only to neighborhood amenities like shops and restaurants but also to many of Kansas City's cultural attractions, including the Crossroads Arts District, Union Station, Science City, and the 85-acre retail and entertainment complex known as Crown Center. "You can walk to practically whatever you want to do."

Noisette SC - best cottage neighborhood Noisette, North Charleston SC

City leaders and a private developer bring walkable streets, sustainable building practices, and plenty of parks to North Charleston.

The developer's tagline for Noisette-"The New American City"-is a bit misleading. A city already exists here: North Charleston, which has grown from 7 to 73 square miles and to a population of more than 85,000 since it was incorporated in 1972. At North Charleston's historic core, however, is a critical 3,000-acre zone that by the 1990s had mounting problems, including a deteriorating prefab-home neighborhood, run-down public housing projects, outdated utilities, and a decommissioned Navy Yard.

Today, those 3,000 acres-dubbed Noisette, after an 18th-century botanist-are being reshaped in a massive effort that may indeed result in a model new city, where sustainability and quality of life are the top priorities.

"Our decision-making process takes into account three things: people, planet, and prosperity," says Elias Deeb, a project manager for the Noisette Company, which created the master plan and is redeveloping the 340-acre Navy Yard. "We try to find the sweet spot where all three are represented equally."

Prairie Crossing - cottage communityPrairie Crossing, Grayslake, IL

Just north of Chicago, Prairie Crossing redefines the suburbs with a design connecting it to the land and mass transit connecting it to the city.

Residents of Prairie Crossing, 40 miles north of Chicago, have it all: a neighborhood of high-quality cottages painted the earthy colors of the Midwestern prairie; a farmers' market selling organic produce, eggs, and honey; miles of trails winding through native prairie, farm fields, and pasture; a lake for swimming, fishing, and ice-skating; a historic-barn community center for parties and concerts; and a charter elementary school housed in a historic schoolhouse.

What ties everything at Prairie Crossing together is respect for Mother Nature. More than 60 percent of Prairie Crossing's 677 acres has been preserved as open land. "People have all these opportunities to live in relation to the land," says Vicky Ranney, who founded the community along with her husband, George. "It may be enjoying beautiful views out their kitchen window or participating in 'prairie burns' to enhance the quality of the native landscape or volunteering to be part of the Henhouse Helpers, collecting and washing eggs." And it's not just an island of pastoral bliss-Prairie Crossing has what may be the holy grail of suburban conservation developments: a rail connection direct to the abundance of downtown Chicago as well as the airport.


*This material originally printed by Cottage Living and copyright by Cottage Living 2008.

Click here to view the Top Cottage Communities for 2006 and 2007.