Suburbia: It has been a panacea and an expletive. Touted for affordability and maligned for automobile dependence, suburbia is a fact of life in the U.S.
How an Oregon builder developed high-density living within the limits of a retirement community.
King City is a retirement community built more than 40 years ago along the Tualatin River in Oregon. Years after development, the community became a city, allowing residents to control taxes. Unfortunately, tax limitation measurements were too low for the city to deliver sufficient services from taxes.
An Oregon builder, however, has helped turn the situation around while balancing tricky state density codes. Portland-based Legend Homes' parent company, Matrix Development, purchased 35 acres in 2005 outside Portland that abut King City, hoping the community would annex the land — a move that would increase its tax base, add diversity to its population and revitalize the community. King City agreed, and Legend Homes developed EdgeWater on the Tualatin.
According to a housing market study Legend conducted, several housing niches in the surrounding areas of King City weren't being met. "Most homes in the area were being built for families with 2.3 children and a dog," says Jim Chapman, president of Legend Homes. "While there's definitely a need for that in the area, there was also a very solid chunk of the empty nester market that didn't have a home." Legend took advantage of the opportunity by offering models appealing to the empty nester as well as families.
Legend's market study also showed most buyers want a one-level home, but the state of Oregon has specific density requirements. "We have to achieve a net of 10 per acre," says Chapman. "That means lot sizes are very small. We try to do things to overcome that lot size, but building one-level homes isn't one of those things that's going to happen unless you want to eliminate garages and living rooms."
The trick was to create a high-density product within EdgeWater that buyers would be drawn to without offering a one-level home. Legend Homes' solution: design a line of courtyard, alley-loaded homes, each with a private patio in the middle of the house. The sides of the house adjoining the courtyard either lack windows or have obscured windows for privacy from neighbors.
Edgewater on the Tualatin's best seller, the Brighton, features a side entry. The courtyard adds an expansive feel to the home while increasing the outdoor living space.
Although high density requirements limit lot size and square footage, buyers still want expensive elements. With that in mind, Legend Homes offers buyers a plethora of standard amenities while its competitors offer similar amenities as upgrades only. Standard Legend Homes features include:
- Whirlpool kitchen appliances in black, white or stainless steel/black
- Granite slab kitchen island
- Ceramic tile or white or red oak floors in entry, main hallway, kitchen/nook and powder room
- Obscured glass windows for privacy varied per lot, plan and location
- Rounded drywall corners on walls and windows
- Complete security system with a keypad, a motion sensor, three door sensors, a siren and a hard-wired smoke alarm
- European-style wood challis rail and newels in painted finish, oak or maple with wrought iron balusters (in most plans)
- High-performance Toto toilet with powerful flush and elongated bowl in master bathroom
- 8-foot, raised panel, fiberglass insulated entry door in walnut or mahogany stain with brushed chrome, pewter or brass handle
- Professionally landscaped front yard and courtyard, depending on plan
- HardiPlank siding and/or HardiPanel Stucco with 50-year warranty per elevation
"All that comes with the price. A lot of people are shocked because a lot of builders have $50,000 to $100,000 in upgrades," Krista Boyd, director of marketing and communications for Legend, says.
EdgeWater offers eight floor plans, with the Brighton as the smallest floor plan. "It's the most popular, hands down," Chapman says. "I've never had a project before where the smallest house is the most popular."
To many people, the Brighton seems larger than it actually is, a main reason it's popular. Legend Homes' architects put the entry on the side of the house to project a parlor room toward the street, giving the home a longer lot approach. The courtyard at the entry gives an expansive feel along the side of the house as well as increased outdoor living space, which is meant to extend the indoor living space.
Legend also used angles and curves in the architecture of the Brighton. Upon entry, the entrance angles at 45-degrees. Across from the door, curved walls frame a winding staircase, which leads to a rounded balcony overlooking the entry.
Vaulted ceilings and arches add to the architectural design of the floor plan. "I think we succeeded in making it feel bigger than it really is," says Chapman.
EdgeWater on the Tualatin continues to be a successful community, says Chapman: "It's been phenomenal. The demand is so high regardless of plans and product types that we have.
"If we put out 12 to 16 homes, they'll all sell on Saturday and 6 or 8 weeks later, we do another press release," says Chapman. "It's been going like that for a year now."
In phase one, 182 lots are available. To date, 98 lots have been sold; 87 of them were sold in 2005.