Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
If there is a near-perfectly positioned city in that vast territory labeled Southern California, the City of Brea might be it.
|Streetscapes matter with in-town housing. Managing density by varying colors, setbacks and elevations sets City Walk (top) and Laurel Walk (bottom) apart, as do the private spaces.
If there is a near-perfectly positioned city in that vast territory labeled Southern California, the City of Brea might be it. An established town located near major job centers with easy access to several of the regionÆs major highways, Brea was missing only one thing -- new housing stock.
Creating the housing that would bring new residents into the community as well as retain current families was a central part of the plan of city redevelopment services manager Eric Nicoll. Removing existing blighted housing stock within the cityÆs redevelopment project area opened up the opportunity to create something new that would "rejuvenate a fast-growing part of our city," explains Nicoll. "The key was finding the right partner for the project."
Responding to BreaÆs request for a proposal to develop a housing product for the first site in 1993, The Olson Co. has been the cityÆs partner in rebuilding the areaÆs residential base ever since. "With The Olson Company, we found a partner and people interested in creating a relationship with the city, not just building one project and moving on to somewhere else," Nicoll says.
The Olson Co.Æs first project in Brea was The Arbors, a community of 27 1,600- to 1,800-square-foot, single-family homes on 2.7 acres with a price range of $180,000 to $220,000. Olson worked closely with city officials in developing its plan for the project. Input from community residents also helped shape the design of the homes as well as the overall site plan for the project.
"They didnÆt miss a single constituent," says Nicoll. "Olson took the time to develop the connections within the community to make the project possible."
While the success of The Arbors was the start of The Olson Co.Æs relationship with the City of Brea, Laurel Walk was the cement to what is today a long-lasting public-private partnership. On a plot of land adjacent to The Arbors, development of Laurel Walk followed in 1997. The challenge to Olson and William Hezmalhalch Architects was to create a distinct product that also united the new residential area being developed. Together with help from the city and input from area residents, Olson built a series of 25 single-family homes that borrow elements of neotraditional designs. Priced from $250,000 to $320,000, the homes at Laurel Walk feature several different front elevations and better than 20 color combinations to provide the varied streetscape desired by all.
"This was a case where through good communication and information sharing everyoneÆs needs were met," says Olson Co. president and CEO Steve Olson. "Brea has a new urban residential sector that anchors their downtown area, and buyers have new housing options in an area where there had been none. Quality of life improves for the homeowners and for the city."
Together Olson and Nicoll have embarked on two new projects in other areas of the Orange County town. At City Walk, which debuted in July, Olson is building 40 classically styled Italian townhomes within walking distance of the cityÆs newly developed super-block. The attached three-story townhomes start at $210,000 and top out at $280,000 for the largest three-bedroom unit. Flexible floor plans allows buyers the option of creating a downstairs office space to accommodate the regionÆs growing number of work-at-home inhabitants.
"Our buyers at City Walk arenÆt buying floor plan," explains Olson. "They are location buyers who want to be able to live life without an automobile and be near shopping, theaters, restaurants and schools."
Following hard on the heels of City Walk is Artisan Walk, The Olson Co.Æs newest project in Brea. This community of 106 detached single-family homes is within minutes of local shopping, entertainment, restaurants and the freeway.
As part of every project it has built in Brea, The Olson Co. has supported the cityÆs effort to beautify the area through an urban arts program. For example, at The Arbors and at Laurel Walk, Olson commissioned a local artist to create sculptures that capture the joy of childhood and family life. Similar works are planned at the two newest communities.
This level of detail, commitment and understanding is fundamental to OlsonÆs strategy to view the City of Brea as its client every bit as much as the homeowner. "Our continuing work and relationship with Brea results from executing the details throughout every phase of every project," says Steve Olson. "That is what good partners do in a mutually beneficial relationship."
How We Pick a Winner
The Olson Co. Solution Builder