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Northwest Landing - Dupont, Washington

In DuPont, Wash., directly between Tacoma and Olympia, the neotraditional neighborhood of Northwest Landing proves that good things can come in big packages. At 3,500 acres, Northwest Landing is one of the largest TNDs in the nation, yet it still manages to maintain its human scale and decidedly Pacific Northwest ambience. Composed of equal parts residential, commercial business and open space, its narrower than-the-norm streets are lined with pocket parks, cottages, condominiums, and largely Craftsman-style single-family homes with front porches. A village green anchors the neighborhood and includes the iconic clock tower and an amphitheater. Northwest Landing is a good place to live.

A clock tower anchors the village green in Northwest Landing, one of the largest new traditional neighborhoods in the country. Photo: Jason Miller

During the past decade, Northwest Landing has received numerous national and regional accolades for everything from its community and home design to its landscaping. In 1995, the Master Builder Association named Northwest Landing "Community of the Year"; in 1996, the National Association of Home Builders recognized Northwest Landing for "Best Community Design" in the United States. Northwest Landing has also been rated as one of the most walkable communities in the United States by Sunset and Walking magazines.

But this sought-after neighborhood didn't just happen, says Greg Moore, general manager of Northwest Landing and Vice president of Quadrant, the project's developer. "We annexed into the city of DuPont, which is a very small, 400-person village that was the old company town for DuPont Company. So the fast-paced growth and the city being able to keep up with development was a challenge. For us, the challenge was getting things approved with their smaller staff and working with them for their growth and maturity as a city, even as we tried to move our project forward."

The land itself was a challenge, too. Saturated with history, it includes the 1833 and 1843 sites of Fort Nisqually. It is the historic land of the Sequalitchew band of the Nisqually Indians. It's the site of the first mission and school in western Washington. It was an encampment site for the Buffalo Soldiers who came out west to Fort Lewis. And it is the preserved location for the Wilkes Observatory, which was used for surveying the surrounding land.

Owned by Weyerhaeuser Company, the large plot was originally meant to be used as a port and lumber milling facility. But because of market and company changes, that plan was scrapped and in 1985 the property was turned over to another arm of the company, the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company (WREC; Quadrant is the development subsidiary of WREC). That decision led to a comprehensive plan by Calthorpe Associates, designed to incorporate a mix of residential, commercial and offices uses into a single cohesive development, rather than a series of suburban subdivisions and unrelated office and industrial parks.

"Our challenge was to successfully integrate the northwest history into the project," says Moore. The company spent more than $1 million surveying, documenting and protecting the many historical sites and performed an archaeological review of the entire community. "Even now, when new ground is broken, we have archaeologists and a Nisqually tribal member monitoring the site," says Moore.

But the land had one more trick up its sleeve. Since 600 of the 3,500 acres is the former site of the DuPont Company, which manufactured explosives from 1900 to 1975, that portion of the site contained high levels of lead that needed to be cleaned up. At press time, this cleanup - a process that was monitored by the Department of Ecology - was essentially complete. Next, the site will be capped with more dirt and become the location of an 18-hole golf course surrounded by a 300-acre business and technology park, scheduled for completion in September 2006.

On the residential side, approximately 1,500 single-family homes have been built to date. About 700 multi-family or condominiums have also gone up. Patriot's Landing, a military-oriented retirement complex, is under construction and will offer a housing choice to retiring military personnel from nearby Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, as well as the general public.

Soon residents will be able to walk to Dupont Station, a new downtown for Northwest Landing.
Photo: Jason Miller

Also under construction is DuPont Station, the new DuPont downtown. A Liberty Inn hotel is up and running. A Park-and-Ride lot lets residents take advantage of Pierce County Transit, the local bus line. Four retail/office buildings are up. Venture Bank just announced it's moving its headquarters to DuPont Station. When Viva Mexico, a new Mexican restaurant, is complete, DuPont Station will boast 250,000 square feet of retail and office space - all clustered around a 1-acre urban plaza.

The "becoming" of Northwest Landing is progressing well. While its newer edges lean toward a conventional suburban fabric, the neighborhood as a whole has adhered to its original plan and has become a popular destination for visitors and residents alike. Community events are staged through the Residential Owners Association and the city of DuPont. Everything from a walking club, Fourth of July parade, concerts on the Village Green, Halloween contests, picnics and more have become favorites with the community.

And that community is growing. Approximately 5,000 people call Northwest Landing home; it has swelled by roughly 500 residents each year for the past several years. By most accounts, Northwest Landing has earned its place on the list of prosperous and successful TNDs nationally.

At a Glance:

Location: DuPont, Washington
Size: 3,500 acres
Designer: Calthorpe Associates
Developer: Weyerhaeuser Real Estate
Groundbreaking: 1996
Percent complete: 55% residential 20% commercial/business
Population: 5,000
Single-family: $170,000 to $350,000
Condos: $140,000 to $220,000

Getting there: Northwest Landing lies on the west side of Interstate 5, 15 minutes south of Tacoma (exit 119) and 15 minutes north of Olympia (exit 118).

For more information:

Jason Miller is a new urbanist writer, editor and plan book consultant based in St. Paul, Minn. Contact him at or 651.646.7021.