ìOne big smush of beige pukeî

That’s how a Denver councilwoman describes Highlands Ranch, the nation’s largest master-planned community which is celebrating its 25th year. Some other assessments:

“The ugliest and most embarrassing feature of the Front Range,” a resident of nearby Denver declared in a letter to the Rocky Mountain News. And from a post on, a forum for urban planners: “Highlands Ranch represents the nexus of all that is soulless and evil in the world.

Geez, sounds almost as bad as Wal-Mart. Still there’s some evidence that some critics of this ultra suburban area have brought their rhetoric down a notch. Consider Megan Chard:

Chard, 35, grew up in the suburb of Littleton, Colo., and fled for downtown Denver as soon as she could. In love with the sometimes rowdy, sometimes gritty atmosphere of urban life, she vowed she would never move to a soccer-mom suburb, and especially not to Highlands Ranch ââ?¬â?? “never in a million years.” Then she and her husband had their first child. Suddenly “transients in the alley, hypodermic needles on the sidewalk didn’t look so good,” Chard said. With an average home price of $385,000 ââ?¬â?? but many available in the $250,000 range ââ?¬â?? the Ranch was more affordable than many suburbs closer to Denver. And it was full of kids: running from one backyard to the next, biking to the local park, splashing in the pools at the four recreational centers. At first, Chard was so sheepish about her address, she justified it by telling friends: “We moved here for the kids.” After four years, she says proudly: “We live in Highlands Ranch. And we love it.”

Article here. Related: Schools and Sprawl