No one can accuse developer Gino Campana of lacking ambition when he designed Bucking Horse, an agriculture-centric master planned community. His goal? To force the industry to rethink the way neighborhoods are designed.
In the past, he saw developers focus on delivering greater numbers of houses in a system that was efficient but not very imaginative. He found his inspiration in the midst of the Great Recession while searching for an innovative project that would sell even in the worst financial situation. "Sometimes, you need a bad market to drive innovation," says Campana, owner of Fort Collins, Colo.–based development firm Bellisimo.
That drive for innovation, combined with healthy, community-centered living and just a touch of nostalgia, led to Bucking Horse. The neighborhood is designed to appeal to various lifestyles, with residential offerings that include townhomes, detached single-family homes and estates, and a 300-unit apartment and condo complex currently under construction.
Agriculture is built into the fabric of the 160-acre community, from small touches like pocket vegetable patches to major investments like the two historic farms that bookend the project. At Bucking Horse's Jessup Farm, adaptive reuse has transformed historic buildings into an artisan village. On-site businesses include a coffeeshop, brewery, and restaurant, where local agriculture is embraced. "The restaurant has its own herb garden, produce garden, and chicken coop," Campana says.
Families can get fresh eggs from chickens at the community's Johnson Farm—just one of many types of animals that will call it home. "It won't be a petting zoo; it will be a real working farm," he says. Residents can work on the farm or take classes at its innovation campus, made possible through a partnership with Colorado State University. In addition to assisting with agricultural research, students from the university's veterinary school will care for the farm animals.
And on a 2.5-acre patch of the property, the neighborhood's CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share—operated completely off the grid thanks to an adjudicated well and solar panels—provides hyper-local produce. "It's not just some vacant half acre in the middle of town that no one lives around, it's truly supported by the neighborhood," Campana says.
That reflects the design philosophy of Bucking Horse as a whole; it is designed to integrate farming on a denser scale than most similar projects, Campana explains. "This is not a 30-acre piece of land with houses wrapped around it. It really is intertwined into the neighborhood."
All of the landscaping is engineered toward that end, with berry bushes, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees planted throughout the community. The concept even carries over to individual homes, where buyers work with the community landscape designer to select the flora for their yard.
That personalized touch is just one element that has resonated with buyers, Campana says. He has seen an overwhelmingly positive response to the agriculture-related amenities. And buyers have been willing to pay 10% to 20% more than they would for a similar home in a neighborhood without those offerings.
"For this to work ... people have to perceive value in what you're doing," he says. "If they really love that neighborhood, they'll be talking about that over and over, and that will drive increased value in the marketplace."
With the growing interest in sustainability, healthy living, and the farm-to-table movement, Campana predicts that demand for residential-based agriculture will grow. Bucking Horse is designed to be replicable; Bellisimo chose D.R. Horton as the builder in part due to its size and influence, hoping that the No. 1 builder in the country—and on our BUILDER 100 list with over 25,000 closings in 2014—would take some of these principles to its next project.
While making urban agriculture work requires not just careful initial planning but consideration of how the project will be maintained, there's no shortage of ways for developers to achieve that goal, Campana says. "What we've found is that the sky really is the limit."