If Andres Duany and Ernest Callenbach got together and raised a child, it might look a lot like Pringle Creek Community.
Closely spaced houses, minimal setbacks, and front porches? Check. Green roofs, community gardens, edible landscaping? Check. Mixed use zoning? Historical preservation? Communal tools? Check, check, check.
Privacy? Affordability? No, not really. But those aren’t part of the expectations.
Pringle Creek Community sits on 32 acres of what used to be the Fairview Training Center (established in 1907 as the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble Minded), a 680-acre working farm that ostensibly trained people with disabilities. The facility closed in 2000. Sustainable Fairview Associates bought 275 acres of the former farmland, and a separate group purchased and started to develop Pringle Creek Community in 2004.
Fairview Addition, another master planned community, is immediately to the south. It, too, draws on New Urbanism principles, but without some of Pringle Creek Community’s more unique features and rigorous commitment to the environment.
The development is subdivided into 147 lots that range between 2,000 and 5,000 square feet. Its multi-use zoning allows for single and dual family houses, row houses, and work live units, as well as commercial buildings. To date, only 16 residential lots have been purchased or built out, including a community owned guest bungalow. In additional to residential structures, there are 5 historic buildings, a remnant brick smokestack, and old covered and fenced courtyard that is re-used as a pavilion. It also includes two renovated brick and glass greenhouses that serve as the hub for a community garden.
The compact size of residential lots and streets is offset by expansive green space on the perimeter and through the middle of the development. The most significant is the corridor that runs on both sides of Pringle Creek through the north and west side of the community. The creek has a very narrow riparian zone of just a few feet on either bank, but then the land transitions to a fir and oak dominated meadowlands. (The Willamette Valley’s dominant ecosystem before the arrival of Western settlers was oak savannah, which was managed by the Kalipuyas through controlled burns.) There are also pocket parks, one of which is home to a sequoia grove, an orchard, walking paths, and yes, a village greensward.
The landscape and historical buildings provide far more interest than the houses themselves. Prospective buyers can choose from three single family models, a duplex, and a row house, or design their own (subject to a review board.) Interestingly, some models do not come with garages. Instead, detached multi-car garage structures are placed on nearby lots. The house designs are in the northwest residential vernacular. Colors are greens, browns, and yellows.
As if the oak savannah landscape and historic buildings are not enough, Pringle Creek Community is further (perhaps uniquely) distinguished by a rigorous commitment to environmentalism, including:
- A geothermal loop runs under the street and services the homes.
- The residential models are certified LEED gold or platinum; one model is a net zero house.
- The paving is permeable.
- Eighty percent of mature trees were retained.
- The community’s portion of Pringle Creek has been certified Salmon Safe
- Existing historic building have been renovated and put into use.
- Several communal building have either solar panels or green roofs.
- Sites have been maximized for solar panels.
All of these positive attributes, however, come at the cost of privacy. While the buildings themselves are enclosed, there really is no outdoor space that is private. The moment someone steps outside their house, they are in the public realm. If you believe that good fences make good neighbors, Pringle Creek Community may not be for you.
Walking through Pringle Creek Community this afternoon, with its current low residential density, felt like walking through a beautifully landscaped, post-industrial, post-apocalyptic park. It was haunting. The naturalistic landscape felt both empty–streets without houses, gardens without gardeners, picnic tables without picnickers–but also carefully planned and maintained. The historic buildings were clearly old, but looked freshly painted. Grass was growing from the roofs and lush vines colonized buildings. I felt as if I were walking through a picture in Planting in a Post-Wild World, by Tomas Rainer and Claudia West. That’s a good thing.