Photography by Jessica Turner.

Progressive design. Low-impact living. Harmony with nature. Streamlined front porches.

This new neighborhood of 82 architect-designed homes just north of LBJ and off Abrams isn’t for everybody — people who love security gates and tract mansions probably should move along.

To reach Urban Commons, pass a glut of aging apartment buildings, turn from the LBJ-635 service road onto Forest Star then Wilding Way.

That’s when you realize “something’s happening here,” says developer Diane Cheatham. “Once it’s a little greener, and we plant the 23 redwood trees in the common area — this place will be unlike anything in Dallas.”

As if on cue, a skein of geese that roost on the nearby Richland College campus fly over.

Urban Commons features 1,200- to 2,800-square-foot single-family dwellings by architect/builder teams arranged in clusters around professionally maintained common areas. In a departure from typical home ownership, buyers can rent a nearby garage with storage. Those rental fees will help fund the overall property’s homeowner association expenses, Cheatham says.

Water harvested from natural sources on site will be used for landscape irrigation. Cheatham and crew rewilded 10 acres of overgrown brush rather than tearing something down or contributing to sprawl, they say.

That’s on brand for Cheatham, the founder of Urban Reserve, a similar infill subdivision built a few miles south. Until recently, Cheatham resided there, in ZIP code 75243’s priciest property.

Urban Commons’ prices are much lower than those of Urban Reserve, Cheatham says. But, with demand for and cost of housing at an all-time high, she says listings will be higher than the $300,000 to $800,000 initially noted on the Urban Commons website.

Local architectural firms designed all of the houses — Nimmo Architects (16 homes), Edward Baum (three), M A R E K Architecture (four), DSGN Associates (four), A. Gruppo Architects (seven) and Far + Dang (46).

Architect Bang Dang says a consistent palette of building materials ensures cohesive design throughout the development.

“The front porches are elemental to that sense of community,” he says. Plus they foster an eyes-on-the-street approach to security. Cheatham dislikes gates around communities and says the public is welcome to use Urban Commons’ walking path and picnic area.

Dang and business partner Rizwan Faruqui say they rely on research and data to understand what they call the “multiplicities of contemporary life.” For example, their firmhas taken note of the growing number of teleworkers. In a three-level model Dang is staging, he created a ground-story office with a desk facing a flushed floor-to-ceiling window.

Dang and Cheatham think remote workers will appreciate a professional space that allows visitors to come and go without entering the rest of the house. “I was never crazy about that aspect of the home office,” Cheatham says.

On Urban Commons’ east end, architect Josh Nimmo is putting last touches on his contributions. Nimmo offers a trio of different three-story floor plans — a pad for bachelors or empty nesters, one for households with families or roommates and another work-from-home layout. All include glass galore overlooking a pond.

Movable storage components in Nimmo’s models can be used to divide space or enlarge rooms. Another interesting touch, Nimmo notes, water in the pond will “reflect the organic silhouette of the homes along its edge.” 

Cheatham says while not everyone recognizes the value of using an architect when designing a home, it makes a difference.

“A person comes here, and maybe they don’t realize what our architects have done with the details,” she says. “But, living here, you feel it.”