One of the things I find irritating is when developers give new suburban housing developments these ridiculous names that attempt to convey that the subdivision is some kind of pristine mountain utopia where only the privileged dwell.

When Denver’s original subdivisions were platted in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the subdivisions were usually named after the developer himself, a famous person like a president, or an existing urban or natural element at that location. As the city grew, neighborhood names were eventually used to identify one or more subdivisions that had emerged as a unique area within the city. These early neighborhoods generally had names that reflected something literal about the area: a nearby park, institution, or topographical feature. Thus, we have city center neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Country Club, Curtis Park, and Sloan’s Lake.

As the post-war suburban era dawned, subdivisions and neighborhoods became one and the same, and new residential plats were given names intended to help market the development. These monikers were relatively modest at first, typically two word names that conveyed a pleasant, if partially invented locale. A glance at the Denver metro map gives us many such examples, including Columbine Knolls, Pleasant View, Western Hills, and Heather Ridge.

Over the years, as new subdivisions have stretched farther and farther out onto the plains, their names have become wordier, more elaborate, and more pretentious. Today, there is an obvious trend in the naming of new subdivisions in metro Denver. Developers now use a variety of semantic tricks in their attempt to increase the perceived exclusivity of the development. No longer would something simple and unassuming like “Columbine Knolls” suffice. These days, the first part of the name must clearly identify that the development is not only a residential community, but also one of great distinction, and that these homes of great distinction are located at a place of even greater distinction. Thus, new suburban development names now begin with phrases like “The Estates at…” or “The Preserve at…” or “The Retreat at…” followed by not just one or two words to describe the incredibly special patch of prairie on which these homes have been built, but three words or more.

Suburban developers evidently believe that everyone in Colorado would prefer to live in a secluded alpine hide-away. Consequently, the words they use to describe the invented “place” these dwellings are “at” typically have no historical or physical context to the actual site itself. Instead, various flora, fauna, landform or Western folklore terms are used in clever combinations to evoke a rustic Colorado setting of unparalled beauty and tranquility. So, when you put it all together, your typical new suburban Denver subdivision will follow a template that gives us fabulously fake names like “The Enclave at Panorama Canyon Meadows” or “The Sanctuary at Antelope Bluff Vista.” Of course, there is no canyon or antelope or bluff or meadow, but that’s beside the point.

Just in case there may be some of you out there considering a career in subdivision naming, I’ve created this handy guide for crafting your own spectacular suburban Denver neighborhood names. Simply read from left to right, and select any one word from each column. Hundreds of combinations are possible! Mix and match to find just the right name for your mountain paradise on the grassy plain.

What does this have to do with Downtown Denver infill projects? Not much. So far, the vast majority of our Downtown infill projects have had relatively simple names that relate to an existing Downtown street, neighborhood, building, park, or natural feature. Let’s keep it that way, shall we? Downtown Denver’s rich history gives us plenty of authentic people and places and events from which to draw names for infill projects. I’ll get very cranky if I start to see new Downtown residential developments with suburbanesque names like “The Rowhome Collection at Upper Delgany Commons.”