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.
Although Toll Brothers is known for master-planned communities in various parts of the country, Aviano is the largest project ever for the Arizona division, since Toll Brothers bought Geoffrey H. Edmunds & Associates, a privately-owned, Scottsdale-based luxury home builder in 1995. Within Aviano, Toll Brothers created seven neighborhoods, each containing a collection of different house plans.
Although Toll Brothers is known for master-planned communities in various parts of the country, Aviano is the largest project ever for the Arizona division, since Toll Brothers bought Geoffrey H. Edmunds & Associates, a privately-owned, Scottsdale-based luxury home builder in 1995.
Within Aviano, Toll Brothers created seven neighborhoods, each containing a collection of different house plans. Other than the Villages collection — offering nine apartment plans — each collection offers at least five different floor plans to choose from. But the most popular floor plan, the Mirador, offers buyers a spacious plan with plenty of standard features that would normally be upgrades.
Aviano spans more than 536 acres of the master-planned community Desert Ridge, which comprises of more than 5,000 acres. After viewing the land as part of a state auction, Toll Brothers pursued it based on its location. The land was purchased for approximately $100,000 an acre. "At the time, that was the highest purchase price of any land auction in Arizona," says assistant vice president Bob Flaherty of Toll Brothers' Arizona division.
By no means is the Mirador an entirely new model for Toll Brothers. It's just the opposite. It happens to be its most popular plan. Originally debuting as the "Santa Barbara" in California, this plan was tweaked to meet the needs of the Arizona market, and to attract buyers looking for a large, trophy home. "It's still the same home on a simple scale, with little differences here and there," says Brian Ahearn, senior production manager of Toll Architecture's Arizona division.
To Toll Brothers, it made sense to bring one of its most popular plans to Aviano. "Our buyers have typically purchased a new home in the past, and aside from better architecture, [they] are looking for upgraded finishes," says senior product manager, Mark Bailey. "Interior items such as stainless steel appliances, solid brass door hardware, granite countertops, raised panel alder or maple cabinets all add to the feel of luxury."
Mirador is part of the Mesquite Collection, where Toll Brothers has 45 lots with a 1/2-acre per lot. "We could have sold 45 Miradors in those 45 lots," says Flaherty. "That's how much demand there is for it."
The Mirador opens with an elegant dual staircase leading up to the bedrooms. The left portion of the second floor contains the master bedroom with a Heat & Glo fireplace separating the bedroom from a sitting room, his and hers walk-in closets and a master bathroom with a corner tub and large shower, optioned with glass blocks by Glass Block Window Company of Phoenix.
The remaining second floor contains a spacious loft area that separates the two bedrooms from each other with an attached bathroom. In the hallway, facing the back of the house between the master bedroom and the two other bedrooms, there is an open space. There is the option, however, to add an optional bonus room with an optional exterior deck outside over the covered patio.
The first floor has a fourth bedroom with attached bathroom. The study is also attached to the fourth bedroom. The rest of the plan has the living room and dining room working together (see plan), as do the gourmet kitchen and family room. Combined together, it makes for a spacious entertaining area, which is one of the features that makes this a best-selling floor plan.
A luxury item found within the gourmet kitchen of the Mirador is a 3cm granite slab. "Granite slab is definitely a sign of luxury," says Bailey. "Today's 3cm granite slab is very affordable and the price difference between 3cm slab and Corian is very small."
Overall, the Mirador is a flexible plan at 5175 square feet, which doesn't include the basement option. The basement option alone adds an additional 1800 square feet. Set up as a home theater with Zenith equipment and Teac Theatre speaker system in the main recreation room, this basement also contains two separate bedrooms each with its own bathroom. "It gives the overall plan a lot of flexibility with different options that Toll Brothers does offer in all its homes," says Ahearn.
Since the Mirador was an existing plan, major kinks had been worked out before. But there was the minor issue of adjusting the initial size of the floor plan to meet the dimensions of Aviano lots. "The original home was a little bit too wide," says Ahearn. "It was just a small adjustment we needed to make to the home."
Toll Architecture made the adjustment by making the garage a bit smaller. "The garage for the Mirador is a little bit shallower, but it's still enormous," says Ahearn. "Most buyers don't even recognize that the house is a bit narrower for the standard lots at Aviano."
The initial Mirador was more than 80 feet wide, but has narrowed to 75 feet. The garage was more than 24 feet deep, but is now 22 feet deep. "We offer them the option to increase the depth if the lot will accommodate it," Ahearn says.
Another issue in the past for Toll Brothers was warranty problems with wood entry doors. "They were beautiful and everyone wanted them, but in the Arizona summers, they warped and fell apart," says Bailey. With the Mirador being the luxury plan that it is, the entry door had to be stable, yet elegant looking. "We have been using stainable fiberglass entry doors by Therma-Tru, and more recently prefinished fiberglass door by Jeld-Wen," says Bailey. "These doors look great and never warp."
Through its sales department, Toll Brothers controls the number of plans used within each community. "If we didn't control the number of Miradors we potentially could have sold all Miradors," states Flaherty. "There's an incredible demand for the Mirador."
A neighborhood of all Miradors wouldn't be accepted, so Toll Architecture works on creating a range of other plans, hoping to meet customers' needs of the "trophy home," like the Mirador. "We're trying to develop some additional plans so folks will gravitate toward those," says Flaherty. "We don't want to end up with a community of Miradors.
"Whatever neighborhood we introduce this house into, people just fall in love with it," states Ahearn. "I think it's the 'wow' factor of the home, it's the overall scale of all the rooms."
"What you get for the price of the home and the actual square footage and flexibility is great value for your dollar," says Ahearn. It's perceived value that Toll Brothers takes to the bank. No wonder they take it wherever they go.
Major products used
Front/House To Garage/ Garage Exit Doors: Therma-Tru: www.thermatru.com
Garage Door:Wayne-Dalton: www.wayne-dalton.com
Garage Door Opener:Genie: www.geniecompany.com
Plumbing: Kohler: www.kohler.com
Master bath Whirlpool:Jacuzzi: www.jacuzzi.com
Home Automation:GE Security: www.geindustrial.com
Closet Shelving:Classy Closets: www.classyclosets.com
Countertops: Slab Granite
Appliances - Product Standards
Range/Double Oven:Dacor: www.dacor.com
Range Hood:Kitchen Aid: www.kitchenaid.com
Downdraft: Dacor: www.dacor.com
-Dishwasher: Asko: www.askousa.com
-Disposal:Kitchen Aid: www.kitchenaid.com