All posts by Thomas Kopf

About Thomas Kopf

Tom is a planner and landscape architect with over 35-years of professional design experience. Recognized for his innovative community design approaches and ability to communicate the importance of market and environmentally sensitive design, he is an active lecturer and speaker for international audiences. Tom’s book Building Community (published by BuilderBooks) is the pre-eminent source for community design in America. As Principal-in-Charge Tom is committed to helping his clients generate financial returns and achieve beautiful projects that create great places for people to live.

Storytelling is More than Visioning

DTJ can bring the emotional power of story-telling to work on your project

Communities that evoke powerful emotions in buyers out-perform typical subdivisions in sales price and sales pace.  Creating community stories brings the communities to life and allows buyers to visualize themselves in the community cementing that emotion.  Much more than visioning, these stories inform the branding and amenity development for the community building on a sense of place rooted in the land. St Albert

At Midtown in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada the community story was built on the variety of people who would live in a mixed-use urban community. By humanizing the community and highlighting the new residents contribution to the4 City (both economic and culturally) the City Council was better able to relate to the people who would become their neighbors.  The concerns about density and urban housing forms faded.  So much so, that the majority of Council enthusiastically embraced the community design.

At The Village of Autumn Lake in Madison, Wisconsin the community story of a Village in the Country resonated with the City and neighborhood groups alike.  It turned a no-growth attitude regarding new development into a fast-tracked annexation and approval process.  The story, conceived around the idea of how villages in southern Wisconsin evolved over time, reflected the image the reader had of what makes Wisconsin a great place to live.

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Each story needs to be crafted to respond to a specific site and setting and enhanced to bring added benefits for marketing, branding, informed design as well as public outreach and approvals.  Learn how a story might be crafted for your community.


Preserve Design through Approvals

DTJ has been successful in obtaining development approvals for over 200,000 homes in 300 communities spread across 41 states and 15 countries.  Our targeted approval strategies and beneficial relationships with City agencies can reduce the time from design to implementation.

Based on our extensive (and beautiful) project portfolio many developers, builders and City staff think of DTJ as a design company.  While this is true what can be overlooked is that these projects get built at a high level of finish and economic success.  DTJ understands that a lot of design happens during the approval process.

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DTJ believes that successful communities stay true to the vision and responsiveness to the market.  DTJ has a proven track record of successfully negotiating project approvals efficiently while preserving the investment in design.  At McKay Landing in Broomfield, Colorado Phase One set the bar for community planning and design in the City and allowed subsequent phases to be approved faster.  Importantly, the builder achieved significant premiums and enhanced sales pace over local competitors.


At Mill Creek in Lancaster, Pennsylvania quality community design turned the heads of the buyers and Township Board alike, achieving densities three times the typical for the Township and setting sales price levels unheard of at the time for patio homes, duplex homes and townhomes.  The builders reputation was elevated to the place where neighboring townships solicited a “Mill Creek of their own” and promising easy approvals for the same quality of community.

Millennial Buyer

What’s OUT is IN


In the desire to capture the Millennial buyer, builders are focused on what type of housing will appeal to this demographic.  And rightly so; even larger than the famed Baby Boomer generation Millennials have delayed home purchases and builders are poised to tap into this potentially powerful market.  Architecture is hip and edgy to capture the imagination; floor plans are smaller, with flexible spaces, simplified design elements and modern Holiday-Community-Garden,-Boulder-5touches. 

We are finding that the features outside the home are just as important, and often more central in decision making than the attributes inside the home.  Builders are wise to consider what amenities they can bring or tap into for the community that will appeal to this buyer. 

Unlike the Yuppies of yesteryear, Millennials are more interested in what they do than how much they make. They prefer organic foods, biking vs. driving, and supporting small, local businesses.  Many are more environmentally conscious than their parents.  These trends can be expressed in their choice of amenities.  Our community design now includes more urban mixed uses; neighborhood coffee shop, restaurant, co-working space, and community fitness center, all with high speed Wifi, dog parks, community gardens, and bike share opportunities.   Pedestrian and bike connectivity within the neighborhood and to amenities in the surrounding community is a must.  In the end, thinking OUT will give you an IN with this buyer!