A survey last year done by Associated General Contractors of America revealed that 83% of construction firms have had a hard time finding enough qualified workers to meet demand—a figure that rises
New Urbanism Thrives in Pacific Northwest
Northwest Landing in DuPont, Wash., is winning awards and accolades for excellence in planning.
Since it opened in January 1995, Northwest Landing, a neotraditional master plan in DuPont, Wash., has received accolades from both consumers and the building industry. Northwest Landing is the best-selling community in Pierce and Thurston Counties, says Christine Hall, director of marketing for the project. Hall says that according to third-party reports, in 1998 Northwest Landing had a 3.2% share of the single-family market and 20% of the condominium market.
|Cottage Collection by Centex Homes was a quick sellout, with 67 two-story homes ranging from 1188 to 1490 square feet and priced from the low $115,000s to the low $130,000s.|
Winner of a Grand Award for Best Community Design in the 1996 Best In American Living Awards competition, as well as other national and regional awards for excellence in planning, Northwest Landing is bringing new homes and businesses to DuPont, an historic village located 50 miles south of Seattle.
The Land Management Division of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. (WRECO), Tacoma, is developing the 3000-acre, mixed-use community. The conceptual land plan was developed by new urbanist pioneer Peter Calthorpe, of Peter Calthorpe Assoc., Berkeley, Calif., and modified by the Seattle architectural firm of Mithun Partners. Mithun also developed the community’s design guidelines.
Northwest Landing is laid out according to Calthorpe’s "pedestrian pocket" principles. Harking back to pre-World War II neighborhoods, each home is within walking or biking distance of employers, schools, parks and daily conveniences. Front elevations are distinguished by porches rather than garage doors (most garages are on alleys behind the houses).
|Home designs use the vernacular of the Pacific Northwest, with Craftsman, Tudor and bungalow styles represented. Zetterberg Quality Homes builds 1800- to 3150-square-foot houses, priced from the $185,000s to the $310,000s.|
A village green with a clock tower offers a focal point for community events as well as informal get-togethers. There are also pocket parks in each neighborhood and common open spaces, such as trails and wetlands (40% of the site is reserved for open space).
The site is one of the few on Washington State’s Interstate 5 that has large industrial parcels available. The housing choices are varied—detached single-family, condominiums and rental apartments in a wide range of prices and configurations.
Northwest Landing will consist of 4300 homes and rental apartments when completed. At press time, 475 homes and 117 apartments were completed and occupied, with 70 more homes under contract. Prices range from the low to mid-$100,000s for condominiums and the $140,000s to $310,000s for single-family homes.
In an interview with PB last July, Hall said the goal was to have 30% of residents working within the community by the time the project was completed. As of June 1999, 15% were working for on-site employers, including computer chip manufacturer Intel Corp.; State Farm Insurance; Westblock Pacific (a concrete products producer), and Lone Star Northwest, a sand and gravel company.
|Site plan for Northwest Landing shows location of residential neighborhoods, parks, retail, offices and other components. The first shopping center, Barksdale Station, opened late last year.|
Before starting Northwest Landing, WRECO surveyed 500 people who had recently bought houses from the top 18 home builders in the Puget Sound market. Buyers were asked to rate builders on customer service, construction quality and other key areas.
"We put their responses on a large matrix and from that, chose the builders with the highest scores," says Hall. The hand-picked group currently includes Centex Homes, Carino Homes, Zetterberg Quality Homes and Quadrant Homes.
The list of advantages to building in a master plan is long, says Peter Orser, senior VP of the residential division at Quadrant Corp., Bellevue. "There’s a real sense of community and diversity in lot sizes, plus amenities you don’t get in a typical subdivision," Moreover, says Orser, the flow of lots is predictable: "We can look far out in advance and bring the lots in at a reasonable pace."
Ken Krueger, president of the Seattle division of Centex Homes, Bellevue, says that building in a master plan "does lower our risk and helps spread some marketing costs, and it’s an easier sell with buyers. In our market, land is at a premium, so if we can establish a land position in a master plan it helps us out." Carino Homes, Fircrest, Wash., is building condominiums and rental apartments at Northwest Landing.
"At $675 to $1250 a month, we’re capturing some of the highest rents in Pierce County," says Scott Carino, co-president. "In a master plan, the benefit is that builders like us, who got in on the ground floor, have better returns than if we were just building in a subdivision. The cohesiveness with the other builders and with WRECO is something you can’t put a dollar sign on."
With WRECO’s size and financial strength behind Northwest Landing, builders and buyers can be confident the community "isn’t going to go upside down," says Carino. "This developer is in it for the long haul." --S.B.
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