I have a talent for stating the obvious, so I might as well tell you right now that when I visit a well-designed community, it just feels right.
How Builder, Developers Tailored The Residences at Bulle Rock to Active Adults
A look into how the development team designed The Residences at Bulle Rock of Havre de Grace, Md., for its active adult demographic.
The waterfront town of Havre de Grace in Harford County, Md., has an interesting history. Located in northeast Maryland at the mouth of the Susquehanna River on the Chesapeake Bay, it is reputed to have been considered for the title of capital of the United States until Washington, D.C., won with a tie-breaking vote from the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Named by the French and American Revolutionary war veteran Gen. Lafayette after the city of Le Havre de Grace, France, the name means "harbor of grace."
Breathtaking views, a world-renowned golf course (Bulle Rock, home of McDonald's LPGA Championship) and easy highway access have long made the town a popular vacation destination. Clark Turner, president of Clark Turner Signature Homes in Belcamp, Md., saw an opportunity to create a place for those seeking a vacation lifestyle year-round. His company and two other developers partnered to create The Residences at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace.
"We provide a variety of housing types and prices — everything from condos to townhouses to single families," says Turner. "I am probably at the niche of the more custom, higher-end homes."
The golf course — designed by renowned architect Pete Dye — is a big draw for The Residences.
"Bulle Rock was rated by Zagat as the No. 3 golf course in the country," says Turner. "We had a spectacular view overlooking the Chesapeake Bay and close access right off Interstate 95. Havre de Grace is this charming, quaint town with all these waterfront restaurants and antiques shops, and a hospital in town. I thought it was a poster child for an active-adult community."
The Residences at Bulle Rock bills itself as the only market-rate community with first-floor owners' suites and laundry rooms in all home types — an important consideration for the empty nester demographic it is targeting. All homes feature open floor plans, vaulted ceilings, garages and other amenities for virtually maintenance-free living.
The Residences at Bulle Rock was originally approved for only 700 units. Turner solved that problem by rewriting a new part of the zoning ordinance for an active-adult community.
The original allowance was tripled to 2,100 units.
"We had to be persuasive," says Turner. "We did all of that, but we still managed to keep 50 percent — about 500 acres — of open space. We clustered our developments in and kept open space in big pockets. That was because we were trying to get small yards for our empty nesters. The grass is mowed for them. The shrubs are mulched. The snow shoveled. But we have all this open land with walking paths to wander through."
The Triple Crown floor plan is one of the best selling of Clark Turner's floor plans at The Residences at Bulle Rock, in a virtual dead heat with its Exacta model.
An important objective for Turner was to build a home on a narrow lot in such a way that someone coming from a large, single-family home would not sense a loss of privacy. So Turner designed the houses with a U-shaped floor plan, which offers a little interior courtyard for each home.
"With all of the glass in that courtyard," says Turner, "when you're standing inside the house, your eye doesn't stop at the glass [doors]. It stops at the end of the stone wall in that courtyard, so you get the perception that it's a much bigger space than it is. And you also get the privacy from your neighbors."
This model strikes a balance between low maintenance and the feel of high quality.
"Clark wanted to have the double kitchen island, a full gourmet range, the large built-in refrigerator, the dishwasher — so that there is a real feeling of luxury there," says Tom Weston, who was the architect for the Triple Crown floor plan while he worked for The Martin Architectural Group of Philadelphia. He's now a principal with McIntyre Capron & Associates of Paoli, Pa.
"The Kohler [Pro Cook Sink] pasta steamer is built into the sink, so you don't have to carry the big pot of hot water from the stove to the sink," says Turner. "That's very popular with empty nesters. They don't have to pick it up. The Kohler pasta sink actually puts the water in, heats it up and steams it. When you're done it drains it right in place."
The bathroom in particular tailors specifically to the clientele.
"Most people — especially in smaller homes — expect a double vanity, but to get them separated gives people the flexibility that they like," says Weston. "You still have the large tub and the large shower with the seat."
Other unique features include a basement wine cellar with a brick ceiling, a large walk-in closet in the master bedroom with several cabinet built-ins.
"You have a footprint that's 40 feet by 80 feet," says Weston. "You have a two-car garage with storage, a full-size laundry room, a library, a grand staircase, a living room, a kitchen with a double island, a walk-in closet, a master bedroom, split vanities in the tub, and a large glass shower. The biggest obstacle was getting all that in."
Additionally there is the second master suite and third bedroom on the second floor. Owners may opt to first occupy the upstairs suite and settle into the first floor suite in later years. The "spare" suite can be used for guests, a boomerang child or visiting parents.
Turner mostly used columns and ceiling treatments to define spaces. He expands the look of the space with a dramatic circular gallery above the dining room that draws the eye upward to a stained glass, stone ceiling two stories above.
"I really like the round hole in the floor that connects the two spaces," says Weston. "The round, see-through part of the dining room is really a signature of his."
The Triple Crown model opened in October 2005. The community sold 322 homes total in its first sales year. The company has sold 53 homes to date; about 25 percent have been the Triple Crown.
"Our first year of sales exceeded all our expectations, and so far, year two is translating into a 15 percent increase," says Brenda Desjardins, a spokeswoman for the community.
The Residences at Bulle Rock: http://www.bullerockresorthomes.com/
Havre de Grace in Harford County, Md.: http://www.hdgtourism.com/
Clark Turner Signature Homes: http://www.ctsignature.com/
Bozzuto Homes: http://www.bozzuto.com/