Land. Land and opportunity. These have long been the cornerstones of the American Dream. But, what is land when not all have access to it? What is opportunity when it is just out of reach?
— From the journal of Charles Rosencrantz, 2022.
I can’t say why this land hasn’t been developed. A coastal plain with a river running through it. Majestic mountains in the distance. Fertile soil and plenty of resources. There’s even highways and rail lines, both simply passing through the idyllic countryside. Somebody should have scooped this land up and exploited it hundreds of years ago. But here it lies, nigh untouched, just waiting for man to leave his mark. Or perhaps dreading it?
Regardless, here we are. A fresh start. And perhaps, an opportunity to find a better way? Not only a better way to design a city, but a better way of life for her residents? There’s a lot of differing theories on urban planning out there. But, there’s a new wave of thought, and this might be the chance to put that to the test. The resurgence of the “garden city”, the ideals of the “walkable city”, and a strong push towards a more egalitarian society. Many of these ideas were popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, just when urbanization was really steaming ahead (pun intended). But, practicality often led to compromise, and compromise often led to a bastardization of the ideals of a social utopia. Even, dare I say, a socialist utopia.
But, perhaps now is the time to explore these ideas again and try to do better than our forebears. Can a socialist utopia be built within a capitalist society? Can a truly walkable city be designed in a land dominated by the automobile? And can a thriving industrial power coexist alongside the preservation of nature? These questions all carry unique challenges, but the answer to each might just lie at a conflux of ideology and design. And thus was born the dream of Village Park Estates.
That name, lacking anything insofar as historical significance and brimming with all the panache of a second-year marketing student, infuriates me.
— Charles Rosencrantz, from an interview with the Village Tribune, 2025
But before we could even begin to answer any of these questions, we had to take this empty land and turn it into a city—even if a small one at first. We had to seed the land with people to begin our new society before we could harvest any worth from it.
Nature first, then, since that’s what we already had before us. We’d selected a small bit of land cozied up against the river and near the highway; a not-too-inventive decision driven by a pre-existing conflux of desirability and convenience. As my associates began drawing out plans for the city streets, neighborhoods, and building projects, I marked off three areas to be reserved for parkland. One, along the river where one of my less-inventive partners was planning high-rise apartment towers, would be a long, narrow strip of green space fronted by low apartments and rows of townhomes. Another, in the center of the area of development, would provide a garden-like setting amid the inevitable swaths of concrete, steel, and brick. The final one, acting as a buffer between the neighborhood and the highway, would be a nature reserve complete with camping areas.
Even before ground was broken, conceptual art flew across the internet from the maketing firm we contracted. Demand to move into the as-of-yet unbuilt development was incredible. So, we laid out a plan for more townhomes, as many as possible with views of the river. With the land terraced to accommodate this, the riverfront became its own miniature neighborhood. Above this, the center was dominated by two mid-rise apartment buildings, ensuring equitable access to plentiful housing for our new residents.
And in the center of it all, mixed-use development provided convenient access to shopping for pedestrians while the apartment spaces above met the demand for more living space. Still, we were careful not to overdevelop the land. Between all this, we left space for pedestrian paths and ample natural space.
And while it went against every tenant of my vision for a compact community free of domination by the automobile, both the marketing and real-estate professionals advising me pushed for the zoning of several single-family-lot neighborhoods. I resisted the suburban sprawl, but only inasmuch as I restricted its size to a fraction of what they desired to plan for.
And with the suburban neighborhoods came more cars, and with them the inevitable parking lots. We contracted a firm to develop on the promise of a modern “lifestyle center” of innovative commercial designs fit for a twenty-first century city. What we got, instead, was simply another ubiquitous strip mall. And while my vision was quickly coming to life with pedestrians filling the sidewalks of our River Glen neighborhood, compromise was seeping into the city like it always does. But, would this be the last compromise, or the beginning of a series of hammer blows that would chip away at my dream for a new utopia?
Find out in the next chapter, when we establish a center of agriculture, a small industrial area, lay the first public transit lines, and develop a new neighborhood inspired by Soviet-era microdistricts: Arbor Square.