Fort Collins city planning history for home buyers

I sat in on a great presentation recently by local Realtor, Linda Hopkins regarding the history of Fort Collins and was reminded of some valuable pieces of insight that could be very helpful to home buyers in Fort Collins.  One of the most important things she pointed out today in her presentation on the history of Fort Collins city planning is the fact that we are a “north to south town”. What she meant by this is that Fort Collins started as a small agricultural community with its center near the intersection of Mountain and College.  As the city grew, it generally developed south along College Avenue at a pace of about 1 mile per decade.  As a result, driving through town, you can take a historic tour of sorts and see the different building styles that have influenced us through our decades of growth.

Building development by decade in Fort collins

Generalized building development by decade in Fort Collins

When you first take a glance at a map, it shouldn’t take you long to realized that our city is laid out in a logical, grid like fashion.  In Fort Collins there are arterial streets and there are collector streets.  It turns out that our arterial streets are each laid out exactly one mile apart from each other.  From north to south these streets are Mulberry, Prospect, Drake, Horsetooth, and Harmony.  From east to west they are Timberline, Lemay, College, Shields, Taft, and Overland.

Eastborough home built in 1985

Focusing on the neighborhoods near College Ave, you can develop some basic expectations of what to expect in home design, lot size, and features as you tour different neighborhoods.  Here’s a basic summary of the areas of development by decade.

  • 1950’s and before – North of prospect you will find Old Town Fort Collins and the bulk of our housing dating from the 1950’s and earlier.  Homes in these neighborhoods were characterized by bungalow style floor plans, front porches, and many long narrow lots with alley access.
  • 1960’s – Between Prospect and Drake you will find lots of ranch-style homes typically featuring low roof lines, 1 car garages, a smaller footprint, and small working kitchens.  The most notable example of this is South College Heights on the northeast corner of College and Drake.
  • 1970’s – Between Drake and Horsetooth you will find a concentration of 70’s home styles.  Kitchens started to get larger, new paneling materials started to be used, baseboard heating was common and many bi-levels and tri-levels were constructed in this time period.
  • 1980’s – Between Horsetooth and Harmony we get a taste of the 80’s.  Two good examples of this are homes in Warren Lake area and Larkborough on the northwest side of Harmony and College.  This style may be coming back in apparel but I don’t anticipate it coming back in home styles.  Think Nagel prints, salmon colored walls, and hunter green.
  • 1990’s and beyond – At this time development continued to push south of Harmony but also started to fill in on the east and west sides of Fort Collins.  Generally newer homes in Fort Collins trade larger living areas for smaller yards.