Multiple Personalities

Details give attached homes unique appeal in high-density setting.

By Ann Matesi, Contributing Editor | March 31, 2001

Recognizing the need for high-quality, moderately priced housing for the growing number of empty-nester and retiree buyers in the Portland area, regional builder Talbitzer Homes took a new tack in building first-time and move-up homes. That shift has made them one of the top 25 residential construction firms in the greater Portland area. One of the companyÆs most recent projects, The Cottages at FisherÆs Landing, features townhouse-style condominiums that have reeled in buyers from the discriminating mature market by offering them homes that are as distinctive as they are accessible and maintenance free.

ôThe empty-nester market is growing quickly in this area and we identified it as a good niche to get into,ö says Tony Glavin, president of Talbitzer Homes. ôWith The Cottages we wanted to bring something new to this market that no one else has.ö

The Cottages is a gated enclave of 70 attached homes located within the areaÆs largest master planned community, FisherÆs Landing in Vancouver, Wash. Just 20 minutes north of downtown Portland, the 20-year-old development features a mix of office, commercial and residential properties where housing prices range from $120,000 to over $350,000.

Designs Capture Regional Flavor
Eight floor plans are featured at The Cottages. The one and two-story residences range in size from 1225 to 1800 square feet and are priced from $169,900 to $209,900. Exteriors represent four distinct architectural styles that are historically tied to the region: Cape, French, Tudor and Craftsman. This combination of styles results in a neighborhood with a distinctly traditional ambiance.

ôThe exteriors were designed to reflect the character of local housing back in the Æ20s and Æ30s,ö says architect and project manager, Dick Bruskrud, of Mithun Partners, adding that the gated entrance to the neighborhood provides residents with a sense of security without detracting from its pedestrian appeal.


The residences at The Cottages offer buyers an exceptional level of detail inside and out, which distinguishes them from the local competition, according to Glavin. Exterior elevations feature a consistent use of color, texture and trim on all sides, giving them exceptional appeal from every angle.

ôThe Cottages is a value-oriented, rather than an affordable product,ö says Glavin, of the project that had construction costs in the $120 to $140 per square foot range, rather than the more standard $110 per square foot costs for an affordable project in the area. ôBut, when you consider the superior quality of the finishes and amenities that are featured here, the buyers certainly get what they pay for.ö

According to Glavin, the development has actually attracted a wider market than originally anticipated. While the targeted empty-nester buyer prevails at The Cottages, other buyers include young married professionals and singles, who are attracted by the flexible floor plans and upscale features.

Standard amenities include nine-foot ceilings, high-end raised panel cabinetry, air conditioning, six-panel doors and gas-log fireplaces. Exterior landscaping and privacy fencing are also included in the cost. Each residence is assessed a homeowner association fee which is applied towards the future maintenance of the buildings, streets and landscaping within the development.


Two-story, Plan VIII, priced from $169,900, features a contemporary, open arrangement for its main-floor living space. The kitchen features an angled countertop that visually connects this space to the adjoining dining and family rooms.


The neighborhood features winding streets with the attached homes joined together around numerous interior auto courts. This market-driven design concept results in a more attractive streetscape and encourages interaction between neighbors who come upon each other in interior courtyards, according to Bruskrud. Garages that face the street on perimeter units are recessed behind the living space, creating a courtyard atmosphere out front.

The Cottages at FisherÆs Landing offer buyers a great location within the community as well. Within walking distance of the central shopping district, the neighborhood is also adjacent to medical facilities and near the main traffic corridor and freeway access.

One of the most popular plans at The Cottages is the two-story Plan I that features a main-floor master suite, complete with its own private full bath. Priced from $182,900, the 1813-square-foot plan features an in-line living and dining room arrangement, a large kitchen with a pass-through, and a first-floor powder room and laundry. The second floor includes two additional bedrooms and a loft. The home also features an attached, two-car garage.

Designed for the perimeter of the development, Plan VIII features a recessed attached garage that creates an interesting entry courtyard. The main floor of this 1764-square-foot plan features an open family room/kitchen/dining room arrangement that increases visual space. A swing room offers the homeowner additional flexibility on this level, providing the option of a home office, extra bedroom or den. The master suite for this plan is located on the second floor, along with two additional bedrooms and a loft. Plan VIII is priced from $166,900.


The gas fireplace that serves as the focal point for the living/dining room in the Plan I is one of the many upscale features that are standard at The Cottages. Plan I also features a main-floor master suite and attached, two-car garage.


Density Challenge
Considered a multifamily project by the City of Vancouver, The Cottages had to meet a minimum density requirement of 10 units per acre on its 6.7-acre site. ôThis high density requirement is a way of putting a check on urban sprawl,ö says Glavin, ôby encouraging builders and developers to make better use of available land.ö

This was no simple feat to achieve, according to Bruskrud, ôparticularly with the relatively large rambler-type units, attached garages and motor court designs that the builder wanted.ö

Bruskrud worked closely with MithunÆs principal land planner, Lisa Folkins, and civil engineers at MacKay & Sposito to increase the density of the site using a number of techniques to make the density work, including using additional two-story units; substituting single-car, rather than two-car, attached garages for one-quarter of the units; and employing a six-foot, rather than 10-foot, setback from the street.

ôIt was really tight, almost like a giant puzzle, in order to get the clusters to work,ö says Folkins. ôWhen you have such a narrow setback from the street, you have to remember that you still have to provide space for things like utilities, fencing and landscaping.ö

And high density does not automatically translate into affordable according to Glavin. ôIn order to create higher density housing, you have to recognize that there will be elevated costs in terms of the time and effort required to create a workable and attractive land plan.ö

ôExterior detailing becomes even more important in high-density situations such as this,ö agrees Bruskrud. ôBecause you are so close together, the rear and sides of a building become that much more dominant. This is particularly true when you have rear garage entry courtyards, where you are actually entering the home from the rear. Then it is really important that this area looks good.ö

ôWe made sure that each residence had its own privacy space,ö says Folkins, using gates, fences, arbors and landscaping to achieve this. Every residence also features its own entry porch.

Because the residences at The Cottages are condominium homes, they also had to meet specific accessibility requirements. All single-story units have barrier-free access, three-foot wide doorways and no thresholds. Two-story units feature either a main floor master suite or swing room/den that can be converted to a main-level bedroom. ôAll the units are ground-related throughout the development,ö says Bruskrud.

The exceptionally flat topography of the site combined with the accessibility requirements presented the design team with another major challenge. The six-foot street setback made it difficult to set floor levels high enough above the street to slope the yards and driveways for barrier-free access drainage while still maintaining the minimum ramp slopes and no-step design. Folkins describes the whole process as similar to ôarranging dominosùevery time you moved one structure you affected another,ö she says.

Careful coordination amongst everyone involved in the project resulted in the distinctive developmentÆs successful design that has generated a sales rate averaging three units per month. The Cottages at FisherÆs Landing is approximately 60 percent sold out since opening its models in February 2000.

Vital Statistics
Community: The Cottages at FisherÆs Landing
Location: Vancouver, Wash.
Model Opening: February 2000
Total Sales: 45 of 70 homes
Builder: Talbitzer Homes
Architect: Mithun
Interior Design: Mithun
Land Planner: Mithun
Civil Engineers: MacKay & Sposito Engineers
Model Shown: Plan I
Square Footage: 1813 sq. ft.
Price: $182,900-$189,900
Model Shown: Plan VIII
Price: $169,900-$179,900
Square Footage: 1764 sq. ft.
MAJOR PRODUCTS USED Appliances: Whirlpool; Cabinetry: Final Touch Designs; Countertops: Studors; Exterior/Interior Doors: Therma-Tru Doors; Elite Siding: Hardiplank; Fireplace: Superior; HVAC: Trane; Lighting: Abby; Plumbing Fixtures: Moen; Roofing: Pepco; Windows: Phillips

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