Talk about a community that has it all. High Point, Seattle's first neighborhood to merge sustainable design with social conscience, is a 120-acre HUD Hope VI project that replaces, in the words of a Seattle Times editorial, “a hideous old public housing project of barracks-like structures” that were built for defense-plant workers at the start of World War II (think Rosie the Riveter). Now, in place of those 716 decrepit units, are the first of 1,600 Built Green houses, townhouses, condominiums, and apartments for more than 4,000 mixed-income residents. The neighborhood offers an ecologically friendly environment, including green spaces and pocket parks that conserve water resources and preserve old-growth trees.

The water angle is especially interesting. A 34-block natural drainage system, including swales, permeable roads, amended soils, and a stormwater pond—the centerpiece of a community park—captures runoff and protects Longfellow Creek, Seattle's most productive salmon-spawning stream. Drainage swales have been incorporated into the planting strips that are traditionally found between sidewalks and streets. Instead of being crowned, the streets tilt toward the swales, which helps reduce runoff. More than 150 mature trees were carefully preserved, and trees that were removed were reused elsewhere on site.

All the housing types, designed by Mithun, a Seattle-based architecture and planning firm that focuses on environmentally sensitive design, were built with the fundamentals of sustainability in mind. Improved insulation and ventilation, high-performance windows, lighting, and appliances cut energy use by 20 percent. The future is looking green indeed.

Award: Master planned community of the year

Developer: Seattle Housing Authority, Seattle

Architect/Land planner: Mithun, Seattle

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Seattle, WA.