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Land Banking

The concept of land banking may be unfamiliar, but it is a great way for governments and other organizations to make the most out of their owned land.

Picture of green fields and trees

We have all heard of the idea of a bank. What likely comes to mind first is the bank where you have a savings or checking account. We do all know, however, that banks do not always have to deal money and finance: food banks, blood banks, the list goes on. But have you ever heard of a land bank?

The most basic definition of land banking is: the practice of aggregating parcels of land for future sale or development.’ Usually in the United States, land banks refer to governmental or quasi-governmental entities that are established to manage such parcels of land. There are a number of ways that such parcels may become available. First, it may refer to land that is blighted or vacant or underutilized in the urban environment. Such land could be held onto by cities until just the right developer and development comes along to help the city reach its established goals for the built environment. Second, it may refer to the annexation of unincorporated land into existing cities or towns. This is something that is practical in the western states with the great amount of open and undeveloped land that is available. For metro Denver, land banking is highly practical given the relatively even terrain of the high plains.  It is not uncommon for cities, such as Aurora for example, to annex undeveloped land. It happens more often than you may think.

Now, don’t get us wrong! It is common knowledge around these parts that Denver does not have a compact metropolitan area. To put it simply…it sprawls. Advocating of land banking for purposes of more residential and commercial development is not what we intend necessarily. While we do love our HOAs, we have been very interested as of late in those that are more centrally located. Land banking for residential development in up-and-coming neighborhoods would allow for the sensible redevelopment of land (hopefully into condos and town homes).  There is plenty of room for infill development and redevelopment in Denver and its inner-ring suburbs, such as Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Englewood and Commerce City. On the other hand, land banking for conservation of lands on the metro fringe is a great idea. Perhaps ecological parks or open space for recreation would curb sprawl and make metro Denver a more enjoyable and sustainable place.

Just something to think about. If you would like to learn more about issues in urban and regional planning, send Alex Bergeron (our sustainability chief and planning expert-in-training) an email at Thanks for reading!