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This article first appeared in the PB April 2008 issue of Pro Builder.
Planned Diversity
An Attractive Place to Call Home

For Lanny Caldwell and David Schmidt, founding partners of ExperienceOne Homes, being different is a good thing. The former Texas builders introduced the concept of traditional neighborhood design to the Raleigh, N.C., residential market back in the mid-1980s with a project targeted to the area's previously overlooked empty-nester market. That project turned out to be the top seller in its price range throughout the area for more than two years running despite dire predictions from the local building community, says Schmidt.

Features typically considered upgrades are part of the base package of amenities for the new homes at Kitts Creek. That includes high-quality wood cabinetry, wood flooring and luxurious master baths. "Our use of high-quality products translates to better value for our customers and fewer mistakes on our part," Lanny Caldwell, co-founder of ExperienceOne Homes.

Today, they continue to be innovators with a unique production community, Kitts Creek, in Morristown, N.C., that recreates the desirable random architectural character of neighborhoods that sprouted up nearly a century ago with more than 16 different historical styles represented.

Kitts Creek is a 772-home neotraditional development adjoining Wake County's research corridor and serves as an example of the builders' talent for combining standard plans with architecturally diverse elevations and high-quality, low-maintenance construction materials. Caldwell and Schmidt say their goal is to provide buyers with the best of both worlds: distinctive homes that blend custom charisma with cost-efficient, high-quality construction materials and methods.

"They've done it better than anyone else I've seen," says architect Victor Mirontschuk, head of top architectural firm EDI Architecture. Mirontschuk worked closely with the builders to develop the community's portfolio of 21 one-, two- and three-story single-family and attached plans. "The level of detail that they provide is exceptionally high inside

ExperienceOne Homes offers buyers at Kitts Creek five series of home plans to choose. Creating architectural diversity is a top priority in the community, where each elevation is designed to give the home its own distinct appearance. Targeted to buyer markets ranging from first-timers to empty nesters, the master plan blends product lines to promote interaction among residents.

and out. And they have gone out of their way to make the elevations for all of the homes really distinctive and playful."

Five product lines are featured at Kitts Creek. Each is targeted to a very specific buyer market: Cottage (first-time buyers), Village (first-time move up), Bungalow (empty nester/retiree), Traditional/Grand Boulevard (second-time move up) and Townhome (singles, professional couples, move down). They range from 1,900 to more than 5,000 square feet in size and are priced between $260,000 and $700,000. With more than 165 sales to date, the team says they have been right on, not only with providing a product that buyers are attracted to but also in appealing to the markets they have identified, says Schmidt. So far buyers have been a 50/50 mix of locals and people relocating to new jobs in the area.

Plans were originally designed to offer up to five different exteriors to choose from, but as popular models have emerged since sales began at the community in June 2006, Caldwell and Schmidt have not hesitated to add new elevations to preserve the eclectic character of the community.

The result is that buyers enjoy a remarkable degree of flexibility when it comes to choosing the style, color and detailing of their home at Kitts Creek. In fact, one would be hard pressed to identify two of the same models with different elevations in the development simply by looking at them — even when they are side-by-side. "We bet you won't be able to," says Caldwell. "That's why we call our homes custom repeats."

Mirontschuk agrees. "Although they are doing production building, they are actually providing a product that is far more complicated that that. Most production builders develop a plan and then alter the elevation slightly to make it look different. But in reality, you can still drive down the street in these communities and recognize that it is the same plan shown with a different elevation. Not so here."

Model displays builders' detailed agenda The striking 4,232-square-foot Victorian belle that serves as the model for Kitts Creek's four-plan Traditional/Grand Boulevard line, Plan 18A, demonstrates ExperienceOne Home's skill in recreating authentic architectural detail. This one features lap and fish scale siding, a turret, twin dormers and plenty of gingerbread. Other elevations of the same plan — including Georgian,

Plan 18A features an open floor plan designed for a large, active family and offers space to entertain on the first and second floors. The home also offers plenty of flexibility, with a den/bedroom option on the main floor and the possibility for a finished third-floor attic. Like all of the homes at Kitts Creek, this home has an alley-loaded, rear-oriented garage.

English Manor, Adirondack or Rustic — emphasize the chameleon quality that characterizes all of the homes in the community.

"Each elevation so completely changes the look of the home that it does not appear to be the same model at all," says Mirontschuk. "It is really remarkable."

Designed for the high-end move-up buyer market, Plan 18A features a flexible, family-friendly floor plan that includes a formal dining room, spacious family room, sunroom, gourmet kitchen and a study/bedroom option on the main floor. A luxurious master suite shares the second floor with three additional bedrooms and a huge recreation room. If the buyer is looking for more space, this model also offers the option of finishing space on the third floor as well.

Town opens the door to TND development

The builders chose Morrisville as the location for 200-acre Kitts Creek after the local land planning commission reconsidered its long-range development plans. That meant opening several large tracts of land formerly targeted for commercial development to low-density residential.

"Morrisville's proximity to Wake County's Research Triangle Park (an area bordered by Raleigh to the east, Durham to the north, and Chapel Hill to the west) as well as its stable economy was what really drew us to this location," says Caldwell. "The town is at the center of a bull's-eye target for new growth in the area. It is right in the heart of the single highest density area for employment in the region."

Not only was Kitts Creek on the leading edge for new residential development in Morrisville, but it was also slated to be the city's first TND project.

"The concept of TND is not new any longer," says Mirontschuk, "but for cities that have no experience with them, a builder does have their work cut out for them."

His advice:

  • Get city officials involved early on in the process.
  • Show officials examples of where TND has worked well.
  • Create a planned unit development so that you have latitude in dealing with reduced front and side yard setbacks, alleys and other design features that fall outside today's standard municipal requirements.
  • Demonstrate the positive benefits of TND to city officials and local residents.
A see-through fireplance defines the boundary between the sun room and the family room in Plan 18A without restricting the visual interplay between the two living spaces.

"More and more municipalities are requesting these types of projects as a rule these days," continues the architect. "Even in a challenging economy, we are seeing that TNDs have held their values while others have dropped."

In addition to the appealing architectural diversity of its homes, Kitts Creek features classic "community building" design elements such as curvilinear streets that slow traffic; alley-loaded garages at the rear of the homes, rather than on their front elevation; sidewalks on both sides of the street to promote walkability; front porches on the homes that encourage neighbors to socialize; numerous pocket parks; and a spectacular community center that includes a 6,500-square-foot clubhouse, 8-lane competition-size pool and 1,110-square-foot cabana, playground, bandstand and picnic pavilion.

"It is really refreshing to hear from residents how they are enjoying getting to know their neighbors," says Caldwell. "There are lots of people out walking throughout the community all the time."

Upgrades as standard add value At Kitts Creek, the builders have forgone the common practice of offering buyers a "bare bones" model as the starting point for their purchase and instead add in, as standard, more than 80 percent of what their market research has demonstrated buyers want in upgrades. This includes fiber cement siding; closed-cell PVC and composite trim; energy-efficient windows and doors; stainless steel appliances; wood floors; high-efficiency HVAC systems; and built-in security systems.

"We have eliminated the 25 percent markup that is traditionally associated with design center upgrades," says Caldwell. "While our base prices are comparatively higher than those of our competitors, they cost less than if all of our standard features were purchased through a builder's design center."

Their insistence on using top-quality materials may raise the upfront price tag, says Schmidt, but it actually keeps costs in check.


Kitts Creek, Morrisville, N.C.

Builder: ExperienceOne Homes, Morrisville, N.C.

Architect: EDI Architecture, New York

Interiors: Model Home Interiors, Durham, N.C.

Grand Opening: June 2006


Appliances: GE

Cabinetry: Merillat

Countertops: granite

Plumbing Fixtures: Kohler

Flooring: Mannington; Mohawk; American Olean

Security System: GE

HVAC: Goodman

Fireplace: Heatilator

Lighting: Seagull

Doors: Therma-Tru Doors

Windows: Windsor Windows & Doors

Locksets: Schlage

Exterior Finish: James Hardie Building Products; General Shale

Exterior Trim & Handrails: Miratec; Custom Decorative Moldings; Fypon

Roofing: Tamko Building Products

Planned Diversity

"At the turn of the century, there were no production builders. Every house was unique," says ExperienceOne co-founder Lanny Caldwell.

"After World War II, this began to change. We started to mass produce communities that isolated people rather than brought them together, and homes began to take on the same look. Sometimes we call what we do TCD, as in turn-of-the-century development, rather than TND, because we are trying to get back to that same randomness of style we enjoyed in the past."

Caldwell and Schmidt adhere to an anti-monotony rule at Kitts Creek. No two similar homes are repeated within eight lots of each other; beyond that, they must have very different color combinations.

The architecture is handled differently on every elevation of every plan, making Kitts Creek more varied than any other TND in the area, says Schmidt.

Since sales began at Kitts Creek, the builders have returned frequently to architect Victor Mirontschuk of EDI Architecture to develop new elevations for its most popular plans. Builder and architect often turn to historical architecture reference books for inspiration. Two that Mirontschuk recommends include, "A Field Guide to American Houses," by Virginia & Lee McAlester, and "The Abrams Guide to American House Styles" by William Morgan.

The result, says the architect, is a community that features an outstanding variation in streetscape and mix of products, one that successfully hits all segments of the local market and has created the feeling of community for its residents.

An Attractive Place to Call Home

Builders Lanny Caldwell and David Schmidt of ExperienceOne Homes say that North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill market continues to be a stable one for home builders. Key features that fuel residential growth in Wake County include:
  • Strong and stable employment base
  • Proximity to Raleigh-Durham International Airport
  • Desirable school system
  • Well-planned interstate system with good accessibility
  • Willingness on the part of local municipalities to encourage growth
  • Plenty of commercial shopping opportunities, restaurants and entertainment venues
The Wake County (Raleigh) area itself received numerous accolades in 2007, including being named:
  • A Top Metro Area for Job Growth by Business 2.0 magazine
  • Hottest Job Market for Young Adults by Bizjournals
  • Best Place for Business and Careers; Best U.S. City for Jobs; and #1 Best Place to Sell a Home by Forbes magazine
  • 8th Fastest Growing Metro in the Nation by the U.S. Census Bureau
  • Top 50 Cities for Expanding and Relocating Companies by Expansion Management magazine