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.
Prime Infill Property
Home buyers find themselves at the center of everything in this suburban infill project that is November's Best Address.
This infill project in a mature suburban setting puts a blend of buyers at the center of everything.
As we stepped out the doorway of a duplex model, a colleague who has been reporting on residential real-estate in the Chicago area for more than 20 years said
Details such as 9-foot first-floor ceilings and hardwood flooring entice buyers to move right into homes at Waterbury Place.
to me, “This is the most charming streetscape I have ever seen.” I took a closer look and had to agree. This community's address works well on several levels: aesthetics, benefits and location. So, does it sell?
Waterbury Place is an infill project nestled on a 31-acre pie-slice parcel in Buffalo Grove, Ill., a mature, upscale suburb located about 35 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Waterbury Place is the creation of Edward R. James Homes, the home building affiliate of Edward R. James Partners, which is an active developer/builder in select Illinois, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin markets.
In an effort to sustain and complement the composition and vitality of the established neighborhood that surround it, the developers have included a full spectrum of housing types at Waterbury Place: townhomes, row homes, villas, duplexes and single-family homes. The eclectic mix has attracted a full assortment of buyer type: entry, move-up and empty nester. There are families, couples, single professionals and retirees that make up the community.
“It's a wonderful variety of household compositions — really a good mix,” says Jeanne Martini, director of sales and marketing for Edward R. James Homes.
We were facing west with the late summer afternoon sun casting a yellow-orange glow that spilled over the roofs and onto the street scene before us. Railroad tracks were visible in the distance, elevated on a berm just beyond a line of row homes that forms one of the community's boundaries. The distinctive architecture, meticulous landscaping and curvilinear roadways all came together in that environment to make those railroad tracks look downright perfect for the part (see sidebar, “Property with a Point”).
Landscaping is a signature feature of developments undertaken by Edward R. James Homes, and the attention to landscape detail at Waterbury Place is no exception. Mature landscaping adorns the community; it has more than 50 varieties of trees, ponds with fountains, open green space and a one-acre park.
Martini says landscaping contributes significantly to setting the tone and appeal of the community for the prospective buyer. “It tells the buyer that you're not only delivering the sticks and bricks, but how the community will truly take shape,” she says.
The Lakota Group, a Chicago-based firm that specializes in planning, urban design, landscape architecture and community relations, served on the Waterbury Place design team as the land planner, community relations liaison and landscape architect.
“The concept behind the design was to create a sense of place and community using a mix of more naturalized and park-like open space features conducive to a range of activities, from quiet reflection to active recreation,”
|The kitchens in Waterbury's early delivery homes feature 30-inch-high wall cabinets; appliances from GE; and double-bowl iron sinks and faucets from Kohler.|
says Brian Wirth, project designer with The Lakota Group.
For those busy commuters who barely have any free time to spend on leisure activities or time with their kids, Waterbury Place touts a “maintenance-free living” concept. Residents don't have to bother with snow removal or landscaping tasks such as watering the lawn — an underground sprinkler system throughout the community services that. And select exterior upkeep projects such as painting and tuckpointing are also provided.
Four large ponds with fountains scattered along the eastern slice of the property, generous green space and a one-acre park all contribute to create an inviting, tranquil environment.
“The site is linked by a network of pedestrian pathways that encourage the residents to experience the site's many amenities, and interact with their neighbors,” Wirth says.
Those railroad tracks we saw in the distance in front of the setting sun happen to carry the Metra, which is a vital commuter transportation link between the suburbs and downtown Chicago. The station for the Buffalo Grove stop is a short walk across the street from Waterbury Place. Highly desirable award-winning schools — high schools, grade schools and middle schools — all surround the community, many of them within walking distance.
Martini says that many buyers are attracted to the community because of its location to the top-rated schools. “Parents love that their children will be able to walk home after classes or extracurricular activities,” she said. “That's a real convenience for working parents.”
A huge map subtly placed on the wall of the sales center serves as an effective prop that underscores the
Lush landscaping graves the entire community and includes flowering perennials, shrubs, ornamental trees and grasses. Plantings were chosen for native and indigenous qualities.
locational benefits of Waterbury Place. The map is sprinkled with dots that depict an abundance of shopping, entertainment, dining, golfing and outdoor recreational destinations that surround the property.
The community is also centrally located to many of the main expressways and roadways that serve the greater Chicago area, making it easy to access airports, downtown Chicago and escape routes for weekend getaway trips.
Martini says sales efforts at Waterbury Place kicked off in June 2005, with plans set for the community to be sold out by mid-2009. The first two phases of the project comprise 134 homes, of which 93 are occupied and eight are currently under contract. The community will ultimately consist of 156 homes after a third and final phase is completed. The most popular have been the row homes and townhomes, which range from the mid $300,000s to low $400,000s. “They're at a great price point for this location,” Martini says.
Recent sales haven't quite kept up with the vigorous velocity when the community opened. Traffic lately has averaged about 10 prospects per week, Martini said, with most coming to the community from word of mouth, Internet leads and the local real-estate brokerage community.
However, they're optimistic about the future. Martini says they're still planning to meet their mid-2009 sell-out goal. She points out that infill development properties in mature neighborhoods are unique and have an aura of higher demand and limited supply. Says Martini: “High-quality, multi-family and single-family homes in attractive neighborhoods in award-winning school districts with a great location are going to sell.”