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This article first appeared in the PB September 1999 issue of Pro Builder.
Differing roof patterns and color schemes help articulate these attached units, allowing homeowners to identify their own home from the street.

A builder would probably not be surprised if a development priced more than $100,000 below the median average sold briskly$#151;especially in Huntington Beach, Calif. So when the Promenade at Huntington Seacliff was over two-thirds sold less than a month after opening, Mark Buckland, president of the Olson Co. of Seal Beach, was very pleased. But one thing did catch him off guard: nearly 80% of his buyers were single and/or divorced women.

"We planned to provide housing for single women and divorced women with older children," says Buckland. "But we didn’t expect to hit that target market so directly. We figured about 30% of our buyers would be single women."

The Olson Co., an urban housing provider in Southern California, planned three distinct units at Promenade. Plan One was targeted at two women, Plan Two at a woman with one child, and Plan Three at move-down buyers, such as divorced or widowed people with an older child.

"We felt that Plan One, for example, the unit with master bedrooms on the second and third floors, would be perfect for a single parent with a teen," says Buckland. "But a lot of buyers in a roommate situation, or young couples looking for a home office, have found that plan perfect for them." Olson was able to offer these attached homes at such a low price because the city of Huntington Beach required the master planner to provide at least 10% of the entire community’s homes to those with moderate incomes (less than $65,000). This allowed Olson to pay far less than one would normally pay for coastal California property.

According to Jeff Chelwick, principal/multi-family design with William Hezmalhalch Architects, Irvine, the Olson Co. took great pains to make sure that these affordable units stood out, even among higher-priced single-family homes.

Interior merchandiser Carole Eichen picked blues, greens and beiges to mimic the natural setting of Huntington Beach. The clean wood floors and area rugs give the homes a carefree, low-maintenance feel popular in Southern California.

"They could have ‘cheaped it out’ with a plain, symmetrical building, but that is just so boring," says Chelwick. "These buildings have a real up-down feel that adds to the variety and curb appeal of the units. It also gives a great vertical character to the interiors.

Chelwick explains that the mix of traditional townhouse, half-tuck and three-story units within each building, not only kept them from becoming boring monoliths, but also increased the overall density of the site for greater affordability. Combined with vibrant exterior colors, done by Miriam Tate of Costa Mesa, and varied rooflines and decorative elements on each unit, the project becomes a fun, vibrant community.

The guard-gated community, a little over one mile from the beach, is a street-friendly project with one- and two-car attached garages hidden inside each unit’s courtyard. According to Carole Eichen, principal of Carole Eichen Interiors, Santa Ana, this gives the project a life and vitality synonymous with Huntington Beach which she tried to bring to the interior merchandising.

"This is a wonderful, playful, casual project and we tried to merchandise it for active people who are rollerblading into their forties," says Eichen.

The Olson Co. created a street-friendly site plan (top) to try and capture the life and vitality of Huntington Beach. Spacious for a small home, the living room/great room area provides ample space for casual entertaining.

Eichen used soft pastels to accent the muted greens, blues and tans that were meant to mimic the natural surroundings of the beach community and the coastal lifestyle. She was also very careful to merchandise with inexpensive items found in local stores, so that moderate-income buyers could easily attain the same whimsical, fun feel of the models.

"We tried to provide a foundation of merchandising to show they could live a carefree and happy lifestyle," she says.

All three of the floor plans feature an abundance of light and air, with several windows and sliding glass doors. Even the internal units are opened up with glass by creating a jog in the master bedroom to allow for another window. In keeping with the theme of variation on the outside, the window layouts and jogs differ from unit to unit, with some units even using transoms over sliders.

According to Buckland, the three-story plan has been their most popular, selling out less than two months after the grand opening. "Our split-level plan has also been a hit with buyers," says Buckland.

"For a fairly small townhome to have a separate living room and great room/dining nook/kitchen area is pretty rare. It gives the buyers the sense that they are getting a home that is much larger than it really is."

As a result of partnerships with cities around Southern California, affordable housing is one of the Olson Co.’s key products, and they take pride in giving their buyers a little extra. Buckland explains that while he could have created a more staid exterior design, that kind of project would have actually cost more.

"The same old townhomes would have been more expensive because we wouldn’t have had the same density," says Buckland.

Vital Statistics
Project Name: The Promenade
Location: In the master-planned community of Huntington Seacliff, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Builder: The Olson Co., Seal Beach, Calif.
Architect: William Hezmalhalch Architects, Irvine, Calif.
Interior Designer: Carole Eichen Interiors, Santa Ana, Calif.
Model: Plan One
Square Footage: 1611
Price: $227,990
Opening: July 18, 1999
Sales: 61
Total homes: 80
Density: 15.2
Appliances: GE; Carpeting/Flooring: Leonard’s; Exterior/Interior Doors: Andersen; HVAC: Coleman; Paint: Frazee; Roofing: MonierLifetile; Windows: Phillips Aluminum; Plumbing Fixtures: Delta; Cabinets: Capital Cabinets; Countertops: Dal Tile; Insulation: Paragon Insulation; Door Hardware: Weiser
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