How to Name a Subdivision


Subdivisions are the epitome of urban sprawl.

The first subdivision (which has come to represent the ills of suburbia) was Levittown. 17,000 identical homes compactly erected upon Long Island potato farms. A Levittown house was more affordable than a city apartment, and thus set the post World War II trend – to invade open spaces and farmland surrounding cities to facilitate the growing demand for housing. 

Subdivisions should not be confused with suburbs. Whereas subdivisions are typically tracts of housing lacking a defined town center. They also oftentimes have deficient pedestrian sidewalks, possess a singular building typology, and are predominantly car dependent.|1| 

Without density of housing and community centers (grocery stores, shopping, etc.) it is impossible to “urbanize” subdivisions. Furthermore, to facilitate any activity outside of the home you must drive your car|2| – and thus the dreaded sprawl becomes self-perpetuating.

This sounds like a horrible place to live, yet most young families move specifically to these areas. Why? Because of the American Dream.

A 2003 Washington Post full-page advertisement proclaimed:

The advertisement showed a graphic image of a 2-story (subdivision) house, complete with a lawnmower and a truck.

-Advertisement paid for by Fannie Mae.


The American Dream was crushed|3| by the Great Recession and the Home Mortgage Crisis, so it seems silly to read this advertisement now; therefore, the only other explanation for the continued proliferation of sprawl is because of the absurd names Developers attribute to these subdivisions. 

I have tried finding the Manual for Development Naming Conventions, but it apparently must be a copycat behavioral technique. Ironically, every subdivision has the same ridiculous naming strategy.

I call it the Radius of Absurdity.|4| The further from downtown, the more preposterous the subdivision name.

Downtown subdivisions (or areas) are typically referred to by their compass orientation – Northside or Southside. Then as you progress outward, the names begin to represent the allusion of the countryside. Here are some naming strategies for subdivisions near Bozeman.

The basic strategy is subdivisions near Downtown must be 2 words:
Geological Feature + Name or Orientation of the Region=

Baxter Meadows
Valley West

The further you are from downtown, the more radical your name becomes, and must contain at least 2 of the following 3 words:
Plant Kingdom Species (almost always a Tree) + Geological Feature + View
(Optional – if you want to make your townhomes sound more sophisticated: Estates).

Alder Creek
Blue Grass Meadows
Cattail Creek
Harvest Creek
Laurel Glen
Meadow Creek
Meadowbrook Estates
Middle Creek Meadows
Middle Creek Parklands
Oak Springs
Valley Grove
Wylie Creek Estates

Sadly, the naming conventions elicit allusions to the previous usage of the land (before the destruction to construct housing): meadows, creeks, parks, groves, and amazing views. I suppose, if they named the subdivision after the final result – 50 Acres of Crappy Townhomes with Only Views of Identical Townhomes – it doesn’t sound as appealing.

Finally, the most absurd subdivision names are the furthest from downtown. These names try to implement the same naming conventions, but become too abstracted:

Galactic Park
(And my personal favorite) Elk Grove.

I don’t know what exactly an Elk Grove is. Perhaps, if elk stand motionless long enough they inhabit the characteristics of an aspen grove. They become a rhizomatic structure, and through persistent inactivity their legs extend into the soil, and extrude through the nearby earth – creating the legs of another Elk rhizome.

The Radius of Absurdity is not exclusive to Bozeman, but has become a nationwide Developer’s tool. In Anchorage, Alaska the subdivision just east of Downtown is Fairview. The view is kind of crappy – it’s OK – but it is close enough to Downtown to make it attractive real estate.

So what would a developer name the subdivision even further east of Downtown?
Yep. Mountain View.

If your subdivision in on the outskirts of town, you have to become, like Elk Grove, inventively creative – incorporating species from both the plant and animal kingdom: Rabbit Creek.

And the ultimate Suburban development even further from Downtown cannot be out-shined by Rabbit Creek. Therefore, what preys upon rabbits and is larger than a middling creek?
Eagle River!




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1 Thus further characterized by having a garage as the focal point of the house.
2 Or more likely – SUV
3 Or at least people may have taken off their rose-tinted glasses.
4 Or perhaps the Radius of Ridiculousness – trademark pending.


  1. David

    On what was here
    And what’s replacing them now
    Interchange plazas a mall
    And crowded chain restaurants
    More housing developments go up
    Named after the things they replace
    So welcome to Minnow Brook
    And welcome to Shady Space
    And it all seems a little abrupt
    No I don’t like this change of pace

    _Modest Mouse

    • brady ernst

      Ha. Yep, Minnow Brook & Shady Space.
      Architecture needs to be site specific, perhaps Development names should be as well.
      These names could be (and probably are) found in several diverse separate cities.

    • brady ernst

      Yeah, I lived there for 2 years; and I realize the “subdivisions” I listed are more just areas of town.

      Fairview is not a subdivision, and is definitely not attractive real-estate. Mountain View has some development (I guess Old Navy went out of business though) and Eagle River should be a town in it’s own right. But I felt like including them for comedic effect…

      (I assumed nobody in Alaska actually cares enough about architecture to read my blog)

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