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Guide to Suburban Denver Subdivision Names

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.”

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    This may be a late response to this thread, but I just found it. Guess we're lucky to live in just 'Crosswinds' subdivision. One word only, but then its over 20 years old. Also, wanted to remark that forgot "Cove" and "Bay" from the list. I've seen Colony Cove before and Thunder Bay.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely right on target. And the names will only get more ridiculous with the housing slowdown which is more pronounced in the new developments with excess inventory.

    So soon it will probably need 7 or 8 names to justify interest such as the "The undeniably unique Estates at Golden Meadows Crossing!!!".

    Surely a sign of desperation.

  3. Ken says:

    Comments to this post from the previous Blogger version of the DenverInfill Blog:

    word up home slice, that is funny!
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 9/01/2006 06:29:00 PM
    Those names have been a pet peeve of mine as well. How about the “Flats at East Colfax Alley”?
    Permalink Posted by John : 9/01/2006 08:30:00 PM
    John, no no, its The Refuge at East Colfax Crossing.
    Permalink Posted by Rob : 9/02/2006 04:16:00 AM
    What’s worse (and more ironic) is that often these names reflect almost precisely what the development is replacing or ruing.

    If it’s The Reserves at Antelope Bluff Vista, than you can almost be sure that the development just destroyed the view of a bluff and the habitat of a bunch of antelope, and the only thing it’s “reserving” is a 4000 square-foot home for some rich energy executive.
    Permalink Posted by Julio Trujillo : 9/02/2006 09:34:00 AM
    Not just neighborhoods — shopping centers (aka strip malls too). How many times have I seen a sign up that says “The shops at ___ ____ ____.” I used to live up in Fort Collins and I can think of several newer strip like developments with such names.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 9/02/2006 10:06:00 AM
    I prefer The Village at Wolf Rock Junction

    or

    The Sanctuary at Harvest Shire Meadows

    or

    The Dominion at Wolf Canyon Ranch

    Very silly indeed :)
    Permalink Posted by Aaron(Navy) : 9/02/2006 10:58:00 AM

    “The Hearth at Coyote Falls Junction” brilliant!!
    Permalink Posted by Jeff : 9/02/2006 01:48:00 PM

    This sounds about right: “The Biggest House at A Price You Can’t Really Afford”
    Permalink Posted by Jesse : 9/03/2006 07:28:00 AM

    Every city has its own disease it seems. On the East Coast it’s names ending in “e”, where no e should go. Thus, we get absurdities like The Pointe at Olde Towne. Classic fru fru garbage. Or British spellings in California, such as City Centre in San Diego. Por Dios!!!
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2006 02:45:00 PM

    I don’t know, “Tower on the Park” is awfully close… at least it’s not “Tower at the Park of Pristine Willows”.
    Permalink Posted by Shawn : 9/19/2006 03:21:00 PM

    A subdivision here was built on a former woodlot- its name, of course, is Forest Acres. The sign is consistently defaced to read De-Forest Acres.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 9/21/2006 07:41:00 AM

    I’ve often observed that a developer names the new subdivision after whatever his project destroyed, i.e., “Quail Ridge,” “The Meadows,” etc.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 9/27/2006 09:32:00 AM

    The Foreclosures at ARM Regret
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/07/2006 09:52:00 AM

    So you know, because of this post, I changed the name of our next project from The Park at One Riverfront to The Park ONE Riverfront. Sure, all we did was get rid of the “at” but it’s something. In all honesty, I think the reason developers use the “at” naming convention is because they want to distinguish each individual project from the larger context while still branding the bigger project. In this example, The Park is an 18 unit second phase of ONE Riverfront Park but it is distinct from ONE – same HOA, same garage, but a different type of residence in a separate building.
    Still, I like The Park ONE Riverfront a lot better.
    Permalink Posted by Chris : 10/09/2006 11:22:00 AM

    Dude you forgot, Water! Water Tree Ranch, etc. etc., etc. ad nauseam – Cowicide
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/10/2006 08:05:00 PM

    As a developer, I find it funny when people complain about this sort of trivia. Bottom line is the neighborhood names are usually driven by a) marketing types or b) the local planning department. A developer simply wants a name that can wont make someone throw up. Furthermore, consider that development is one of the few businesses that is driven almost entirely by market forces. If the homes were bad, no one would buy them. Complaints, therefore, should be given to the person who stares at you from the mirror.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/10/2006 08:08:00 PM

    Sadly, this naming scheme could be applied to communities just about anywhere in North America – they have no sense of place or context, it is pure marketing.
    I personally would support municipal bylaws that prevent the naming of frivolous and/or vexatious subdivision names
    Permalink Posted by vexedplanner : 10/10/2006 08:08:00 PM

    It’s not just hundreds of combinations, it’s 21^4, or 194481.
    For extra credit, try writing a nice little javascript to pick one at random!
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/10/2006 08:59:00 PM

    a building block that is missing (pun premeditated) is the word North. As in North Elk Valley. sometimes it is west or east but never south.
    In suburban chicago all permutations are soon to be exusted. soon there will be a suburb called Park Park.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/10/2006 09:05:00 PM

    If you can get hold of it, the book “Caste Marks” by Paul Fussell (published 1984) is one of the best guides to the topic of middle-class pretension. Although it is twenty years old and some of the specifics have changed, the underlying principles remain current.
    Permalink Posted by DCG : 10/10/2006 09:12:00 PM

    I count something over 194,000 possible combinations. My heart bleeds for the millions who may end up living in them.
    Permalink Posted by mike in Pueblo West : 10/10/2006 09:18:00 PM

    Man, you are one word off from having the name of my subdivision in the St. Louis area – “Spring Valley Woods”. We don’t get much of the “The Estates at…” stuff in this area, but there are plenty of arbitrary conjuctions of words to be made into subdivision names, like “Timberwood Trails”
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/10/2006 10:19:00 PM

    this urban planning student loves your naming table! *bookmarks for future citation in exurbia-themed projects*
    Permalink Posted by escaped exurbanite : 10/11/2006 05:14:00 AM

    Years ago in Florida (in the days of two-word names) there was a development called “Hidden Pines”. Of course, it was all piney woods before the developer started there. The first thing done was to bulldoze all the pine trees. Definately hidden.
    Naming is all the same all over now. Only some of the words on the right hand side change.
    Permalink Posted by Mongo : 10/11/2006 05:14:00 AM

    When I lived in California I was fed up with this too. I created my own fictional town, actually. “Rancho de la San Mesa”.
    Ranch of the Saint Table.
    Doesn’t mean anything, but ooooo, doesn’t it sound SouthWestern?
    Permalink Posted by Sam : 10/11/2006 05:38:00 AM

    Simple script to generate subdivision name:
    (Indentation may be mangled due to comment format)

    function generateDenverSubName()
    {
    type = [ “Collection”, “Dominion”, “Enclave”,
    “Estates”, “Harbor”, “Haven”,
    “Hearth”, “Homes”, “Homestead”,
    “Manor”, “Plantation”, “Preserve”,
    “Quarters”, “Refuge”, “Reserve”,
    “Residences”, “Resort”, “Retreat”,
    “Sanctuary”, “Summit”, “Village”];

    first = [ “Antelope”, “Buffalo”, “Coyote”,
    “Eagle”, “Elk”, “Harvest”,
    “Hawk”, “Horizon”, “Mountain”,
    “Panorama”, “Pine”, “Prairie”,
    “Saddle”, “Shadow”, “Silver”,
    “Sky”, “Spring”, “Thunder”,
    “Timber”, “Wild”, “Wolf” ];

    second = [ “Bluff”, “Branch”, “Brook”,
    “Canyon”, “Cliff”, “Creek”,
    “Crest”, “Edge”, “Falls”,
    “Gap”, “Gate”, “Glen”,
    “Gulch”, “Lake”, “Peak”,
    “River”, “Rock”, “Tree”,
    “Valley”, “View”, “Wood” ];

    third = [ “Acres”, “Butte”, “Commons”,
    “Crossing”, “Farms”, “Gardens”,
    “Heights”, “Highlands”, “Hills”,
    “Junction”, “Knoll”, “Landing”,
    “Meadows”, “Park”, “Place”,
    “Pointe”, “Ranch”, “Ridge”,
    “Run”, “Trails”, “Vista” ];

    i = Math.floor(Math.random() * type.length);
    j = Math.floor(Math.random() * first.length);
    k = Math.floor(Math.random() * second.length);
    l = Math.floor(Math.random() * third.length);

    name = “The ” + type[i] + ” at ” + first[j] + ” ” + second[j] + ” ” + third[l];

    return name;
    }
    alert(generateDenverSubName());
    Permalink Posted by Tal : 10/11/2006 06:57:00 AM

    As I read this from my apartment at The Retreat at Fox Hollow in suburban Lakewood, it’s pretty damned funny.
    Permalink Posted by Shocho : 10/11/2006 07:54:00 AM

    I was thinking something along the lines of, “The Sanctuary at Five Points Canyon.” This is brilliant! Let’s start a revolution!
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/11/2006 09:30:00 AM

    It is also similarly quite noticable here in Orlando FL. But what is even more stunning than the names is how and where they are used. I live on the south east side of Orlando and unincorporated Orange County Fl. This area is quite distinct in the prominence of wetlands, lakes, swamps and forests. I live in one such forest. On a daily basis, large forests disappear. They are buldozed into large pyres. The remaining barren and desolate tract is repopulated with subdivisions with names that have ‘preserve’, ‘reserve’, ‘forest’ and similar phrasing in them. New multi-lane roads are built to get you to your mcmansion at the ‘Retreat’ or ‘Refuge’.
    Oh, and what about the neo-words like “stonewood” that are created?
    And I think every city must have at least 100 subdivisions named from the “compass rose”, like eastwood, eastlake, northshore, etc.
    Oh, and we too have a list of mythical subdivisions – Savanah Trace (no savanahs down here), Falcon trace (no falcons; the forest that was wiped out was the former home of bald eagles however). I’ll have to look for ‘hills’, ‘ridge’ and such – no hills, ridges or mountains down here either…
    / rant>
    Permalink Posted by BrettOSecuritypro : 10/11/2006 10:18:00 AM

    Even better is the trend to add an ‘E’ to the end of names, or spell them off a little like:
    Sunmarke or Canterberry
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/11/2006 10:40:00 AM

    Ok, sure suburban subdivision names are awful but what about all the Italian and French names for dondo towers in a place like Reno? deNovo, Montage, Palladio….ech. As if a foreign language name will grant residents some level of sophistication they wouldnt get living in a place called Park Towers (on the park by the way).
    Permalink Posted by myrna the minx : 10/11/2006 12:14:00 PM

    The anonymous developer mentioned:
    “Furthermore, consider that development is one of the few businesses that is driven almost entirely by market forces. If the homes were bad, no one would buy them”.
    The first statement is in bad need of explanation. What business isn’t driven by market forces? How is development – a heavily regulated sector that relies mightily on government cooperation – more market-driven than other businesses? Unless you’re referring to the instability of property values, which respond more directly to market pressures than, say, cut flowers (although there was a big tulip hubbub once).
    The second statement works fine if you live in the pages of an economic textbook. People buy bad houses all the time. People buy ugly clothes, ridiculous cars, crap food, and any one of a thousand purchases that constitute terrible decisions. The decisions that run the greatest risk of being terrible are often the ones in which the most is at stake, financially and emotionally.
    In fact, given all the low-rate long-term mortgages currently enabling people to move into the vinyl-and-chipboard mansions of their dreams, it seems that the emotional factor is more significant than ever. In such an environment, meaningless but enticing names are not trivia. They’re a sales tool. If you don’t believe me, imagine buying a luxurious five-bedroom manor at The Tailings at Cancer Mills or The Port-a-Potties at Scum Ponds.
    The developer seems to be amused by the discussion. As a developer, you should also remember that we’re a potential market. Unless, of course, your business is driven by contracts with governments and not direct sales to people. Then you’re insulated from market forces and don’t need to bother with the concerns of folks like us.
    Permalink Posted by palinode : 10/11/2006 01:11:00 PM

    I lived in an apartment complex called Rosemary Ridge(only two words!) I thought it was lame until I realized a) The complex actually was on a slight ridge and b) it was on Rosemary Drive.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/11/2006 01:15:00 PM

    Proud owner of a Single Family Home (like I’d want other families living in my house) located in bleak and barren “Windflower at Crystal Valley Ranch” in Castle Rock. I’ve often commented on the fact that they name these monstrosities after whatever used to be there before they bulldozed it. Or thy just use the Bullcrap Name Generator.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/11/2006 03:52:00 PM

    Just North of the aforementioned Columbine Knolls is a newly developing area that’s been annoying me – named, Vintage Reserve. It used to be a bucolic plot of farm with great views of the mountains and with tons of very old trees. Those were scraped and up went brand new cream and brown $400,000+ track houses. Not sure where the Vintage nor the Reserve comes into play in this name. I’m also 99% certain that wine was never made on this land. Unbelievable.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/11/2006 03:59:00 PM

    We have a subdivision called “New Neighborhood in Old Davidson” in Davidson, NC because the developer was trying so hard not to name it. Much to his chagrin, the locals call it NUDA.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/12/2006 06:11:00 AM

    I predict that the next naming trend will try to capitalize on growing ecological awareness – while not actually adhering to the goals of that movement.
    New “smart” developments will be called Sustainable Acres, Green Towne, New Urbania or Eco-Dwell. But other than superficial differences, say – design touches by Philip Starck, they will really be no different from The Quarters at Horizon Gulch Pointe.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/12/2006 03:08:00 PM

    It reminds me of Calvin Trillin’s “La Casa du Maison House.”
    Permalink Posted by vespabelle : 10/12/2006 03:25:00 PM

    I used to live in a rural development called “Swan Pointe.” No swans but lots of dead possums. Should have been “The Estates at Possum Run” ???
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 07:28:00 AM

    “As a developer, I find it funny when people complain about this sort of trivia. Bottom line is the neighborhood names are usually driven by a) marketing types or b) the local planning department.”
    It’s not editorial, it’s humor. Some of the names are just plain silly, it is what it is.
    However, the names would not be nearly so ironic if so many developers did not bulldoze everything that existed before the subdivisions went up. Having lived in heavily wooded parts of the country, I’ve seen this happen myself many times. Personally I’d rather live among large, pre-existing trees than a bunch of 15-foot replanted saplings that will be full-sized when I am dead. What’s up with that?
    Permalink Posted by Jeff Montgomery : 10/18/2006 02:28:00 AM

    This may be a late response to this thread, but I just found it. Guess we’re lucky to live in just ‘Crosswinds’ subdivision. One word only, but then its over 20 years old. Also, wanted to remark that forgot “Cove” and “Bay” from the list. I’ve seen Colony Cove before and Thunder Bay.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 10/07/2007 04:34:00 PM

    Absolutely right on target. And the names will only get more ridiculous with the housing slowdown which is more pronounced in the new developments with excess inventory.
    So soon it will probably need 7 or 8 names to justify interest such as the “The undeniably unique Estates at Golden Meadows Crossing!!!”.
    Surely a sign of desperation.
    Permalink Posted by Anonymous : 12/27/2007 04:15:00 PM

    Links to this post:

    ice cold linkbucket
    status*: working on something. this link (and chart) are relevant. it’s too soon for anyone, much less me, to be thinking about youknowhatmo. but someone asked neil gaiman how long his books are, and i hadn’t realized that stardust was …
    posted by Erin ! @ 7/10/2007 01:27:58 PM
    adventures in nomenclature
    ridiculous subdivision names have long been a source of amusement for me. there are plenty of subdivision name generators on the internet, but my favorite is located on the denver infill blog. while it’s fun to poke fun, there is truth …
    posted by John @ 4/21/2007 08:22:00 AM
    visit shelby county: relax in traffic, inhale fresh exhaust fumes …
    whether local political offices make people delusional, or are somehow attractive to delusional people, i don’t know, but the inability of local politicians to accept reality never ceases to amaze me: alabaster mayor david frings on …
    posted by Wheeler @ 3/29/2007 09:07:23 AM
    My new pet peeve
    From the “things that annoy me but I don’t really know why” department: This fad of appending “nation” to team nicknames in order to identify groups of college sports fans and alumni gets on my nerves. Over the past week, …
    posted by Lee P @ 1/09/2007 06:02:00 PM
    interview with citizen dick; rants and awards
    a couple of interesting posts before the long weekend that i found while bouncing around the bike blogging world and internet this morning: from the sidebar over at rant your head off: if you’re old enough to remember the 1980s, …
    posted by GMF @ 12/29/2006 12:08:00 PM
    links i like by lauren
    emily’s list urban sprawl subdivision name generarator thumbelina, the world’s smallest horse and this one and this one!
    posted by Lauren @ 10/28/2006 04:04:00 PM
    shadow glen knolls at aviara mist ridge
    one of my favorite things about southern california is the ersatz names that tract home developments are given. one day, you have a scrub-covered patch of dirt in the middle of nowhere, the next day, you have “sierra hills at meadow …
    posted by Sassberto @ 10/19/2006 11:18:19 AM
    the sanctuary at antelope bluff vista?!?
    even if you don’t live in denver, this guide to suburban denver subdivision names is damn funny. i’m sure the same absurd naming schemes are pretty common in other cities. in maryland, when i was in high school, new subdivisions were …
    posted by Diana @ 10/17/2006 09:25:00 AM
    great subdivision names
    i found this post here and i thought it was so clever i would reproduce it here. since bizarrely the g23 commercial project on 60 and the proposed synnesvedt property are taking tentative names of “the grove”. …
    posted by Mayor Bill Gentes @ 10/13/2006 04:38:00 AM
    reno and beyond: the boys are back in town
    all you rambling boys of pleasure and ladies of easy leisure: big news! the arterra website finally has floorplans, information on finishes and on the building “concept” as they say. bosch diswashers but no pool? …
    posted by Myrna the Minx @ 10/12/2006 06:43:40 AM
    the village at pine peak pointe
    attention city planners everywhere. the funny folks at denverinfill blog have come up with a handy chart to help devise new, distinctive names for development neighbourhoods. just read across from left to right and in no time, …
    posted by Karl Plesz @ 10/11/2006 05:56:00 PM
    from the summit at hawk gap pointe…
    …here’s a handy guide to naming denver-area housing developments.
    posted by Ted Compton @ 10/11/2006 01:23:00 PM
    suburban subdivision names
    i’ve long been convinced that developers who name subdivisions and shopping centers simply select ‘one from column a’ and ‘one from column b’ from lists of generic names. well, i’m not the only one who thinks that. …
    posted by Stan Taylor @ 10/11/2006 09:29:52 AM
    second hand smoke…….
    read this article and tell me second hand smoke isn’t dangerous. i think we need to take it the whole way and ban smoking in all public places. you wanna smoke? roll all the windows up in your car or close all the windows in your house …
    posted by George @ 10/11/2006 03:50:00 AM
    The Hearth at Thunder Edge Knoll
    Real estate magnates: if you have to name your newest subdivision, look no further. The below grid does it all for you. The Quarters at Eagle Shire Place, perhaps? Or maybe The Plantation at Hawk Falls Run? Tough choice. …
    posted by michael @ 10/10/2006 09:20:00 PM
    guide to suburban denver subdivision names
    mark frauenfelder: i was born in denver and grew up in the area, and am too familiar with the barfalicious names developers attach to the hideous cookie-cutter housing subdivision springing up in the weedy praries around rocky flats …
    posted by noemail@noemail.org (Mark Frauenfelder) @ 10/10/2006 08:21:20 PM
    the hearth at thunder edge knoll
    real estate magnates: if you have to name your newest subdivision, look no further. the below grid does it all for you. the quarters at eagle shire place, perhaps? or maybe the plantation at hawk falls run? tough choice. …
    posted by Geoff Manaugh @ 10/10/2006 01:17:00 PM
    naming your subdivision, made easy!
    memo to suburban tract developers: curbed la has your number. while others might be impressed by the evocative names with which you christen your exurban subdivisions (ie “olive grove at perris lake”, or “rancho sin vacas at catalina …
    posted by jrohmer @ 10/09/2006 11:54:16 AM
    what’s in a name?
    council public hearing tonight. that’s when we hear about, but don’t vote on, proposed development projects. one project, a small subdivision off pinehurst drive adjacent to a part of the country club golf course, in a lowland part of …
    posted by Sally @ 9/18/2006 09:54:00 PM
    it’s nice to know that it’s not just around here
    i got a kick out of a blog posting on denverinfill blog about the naming of suburban developments. in guide to suburban denver subdivision names, ken schroeppel has created a sort of cheat sheet — chinese restaurant carry-out …
    posted by Mike @ 9/18/2006 08:37:00 PM
    the village at wolf lake crossing, etc.
    a guide to naming a new suburban subdivision.
    posted by Ray @ 9/18/2006 04:50:56 PM