A new way to build communities is being showcased in central Iowa this weekend, though the idea itself isn’t revolutionary but more a return to our roots. The Prairie Trail development in Ankeny was designed to evoke a style some of us associate with our grandparents’ homes and neighborhoods.

David Vollmar, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines, says it’s called New Urbanism. Vollmar says the houses are all built around a large central park: "They’re all back-loaded, which means it’s the old-style houses of Beaverdale (a Des Moines neighborhood), or I live in Pella where you have a lot of alleys involved and you come in from your garages from an alley. The front of the house is the old-style with porches for people to enjoy."

Porches are making a come-back, Vollmar says, and retail outlets are being built close-by so residents can walk or ride bikes to pick up necessities, go to school or work — instead of driving. He says it’s a way to combat pollution while eliminating urban sprawl. Vollmar says all of the homes have to meet certain design styles.

"They’re different Colonial, Victorian and Arts and Crafts houses that are out there, kind of reaching back with some architectural design," Vollmar says. "It’s not congested, so we’ve got parking in the rear, streets going along one way on each side and there’s a three-acre park in the middle." Prairie Trail is being constructed on what had been, for decades, the Iowa State Dairy Farms.

He says the development encompasses 1,200, including parks, recreational areas and a retail/office park, in addition to space for 500 to 600 new homes. Vollmar projects 10,000 people will be living in Prairie Trail by the year 2020. It’s the focus of a Home Show Expo this weekend and the following two weekends. For information, visit the Prairie Trail website