A group of houses may appear beautiful and well maintained, but if the houses don't contain people, it's not going to seem like much of a community. Coburn Development, a Boulder, Colo.-based architecture, building, and development company, realized as much when it devised Pitchfork, a 101-unit project in Mt. Crested Butte, Colo. As a counterpoint to the ski resort town's typical large vacation homes that sit empty for much of the year, Coburn designed a series of modestly sized, single-family attached and detached houses. Clustered with four multifamily buildings on a 7.8-acre site, the homes range from 850 square feet to 2,500 square feet. “We saw the need for small single-family houses; they didn't really exist before [in this area],” says Pete Weber, AIA, Coburn's creative director. “We wanted a place for the locals to live.”

He, company president Bill Coburn, and project architect Dan Rotner, AIA, loosely modeled the architecture on the old mining town of Crested Butte, located just two miles away. That meant rectangular forms, pitched roofs, and lots of wood and rusted metal. “It's so dry up there that you can let the metal rust and it doesn't significantly affect the life of the product,” says Weber. The units' structural simplicity helped keep costs down while imparting a distinctive character to the neighborhood.

Coburn, Weber, and Rotner also obtained variances on setbacks, road widths, and building separation to lend Pitchfork the tightly knit feeling of historic Crested Butte. Brightly painted exteriors mix with natural, weathered wood facades to give the impression of a community that evolved over time rather than a brand-new development. Some units have their own garages; for those that don't, the architects interspersed covered structures they call “parking barns” throughout the project. “They're a way to get cars off the front of the house,” Weber says.

Under the company's land-purchase agreement, Pitchfork had to include about 30 affordable housing units. These homes are deed-restricted, which typically means that any future buyers must have lived in the area for at least a year and must earn 80 percent of their annual income locally. The affordable aspect of the project also enhanced its appeal to full-time local residents, who now account for about 60 percent of the almost-complete community. Vacation homeowners make up the rest. “It's very rare in a place like this that you have people living there year-round,” Weber says. “The neighbors know each other, even the second-home owners.”

project: Pitchfork, Mt. Crested Butte, Colo.
architect/developer/general contractor: Coburn Development, Boulder, Colo.
civil engineer: Del-Mont Consultants, Montrose, Colo.
project size: 850 square feet to 2,500 square feet per unit (single-family attached and detached); 550 square feet to 1,400 square feet per unit (multifamily)
total units: 101
site size: 7.8 acres
construction cost: $110 to $180 per square foot
sales price: $90,000 to $725,000 per unit
photography: Tim Murphy/FotoImagery.com, except where noted