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New Jersey Townhomes Live Like Detached Homes But Cost Less


New Jersey Townhomes Live Like Detached Homes But Cost Less

Well-heeled empty nesters are flocking to The Enclave at Montvale for a shot at large, luxurious townhomes that live like single-family homes, but cost a lot less.

By By Lisa Skolnik, Contributing Editor December 31, 2009
This article first appeared in the PB January 2010 issue of Pro Builder.
Merchandising Showcases Elegance, Functionality
Reshaping the view

In most communities, the falling economy and rising interest in the environment have coalesced to make new residential real-estate offerings leaner and greener. But Woodmont PropertiesEnclave at Montvale (N.J.), named for the affluent borough it calls home, proves that a luxury development that doesn’t actively embrace either trend can succeed in a tough economic climate.

Nothing is average or ordinary at the Enclave. The 19-acre project features 20 architecturally dazzling townhomes and eight acre-plus, tree-lined lots zoned for custom single-family homes. The former, which range from 3,800 to 5,200 square feet and cost $1.2 to $1.5 million, are sprawled over 10 acres and live like single-family homes, while the latter are priced from $650,000 to $875,000 and subject to stringent architectural standards. Despite the substantial price points and shaky economy, “we haven’t had to reduce anything” and “sales aren’t far off target,” says Lewis Zlotnick, president of the Parsippany, N.J., development firm.

Attached units look like single-family homes thanks to intricately proportioned, variable rooflines and cladding materials that are different for each facade.
Photos: Fred Forbes, Photogroupe

Woodmont CEO Eric Witmondt believes the Enclave is doing well in a down market because “it was carefully tailored to the community’s specific wants and evolving needs.” Zlotnick also points out that the townhomes are “a low entry point” in the affluent area, where similarly sized homes usually start at $1.8 million.

In fact, Montvale boasts enviable demographics. Because it is home to a mother lode of high-status corporate headquarters such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Benjamin Moore, Barr Pharmaceuticals and Pentax, and lies a mere 30 minutes away from New York City, the borough “attracts affluent and accomplished residents,” Zlotnick says. Its numbers are also rising: 2007 Census statistics show that the estimated median household income climbed to $114,764 from $93,031 in 2000, and the estimated median home/condo value climbed to $692,514 from $338,800. Also, those well-heeled households are aging; the community “has a growing baby-boomer population whose children have recently left the nest, and they want to scale down without feeling like they’re making any lifestyle sacrifices,” says Witmondt.

Woodmont anticipated that the development would be 75 percent sold by the end of 2009. At press time, sales were just 25 percent off, with nine townhomes and three lots sold. “The downturn has affected us because people are having trouble selling their larger, more expensive homes, but things are letting up now. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of action at our sales center because we have what they want, and there’s a lot less of what we have out there than buyers who want it,” says Zlotnick.

The largest of three models offered at the enclave, the Chadwyck has a lofted second level and a spacious lower level that serves as multipurpose recreational space.

Community design pleases everyone The Enclave abuts a 108,000-square-foot office building that was once the corporate headquarters of Toys 'R Us. In the early 2000s, new owners wanted to redevelop the building and its 36-acre site, but “the borough told them it wouldn’t approve any plans unless they included a residential component to buffer the office building from the existing high-end, single-family homes on the west side of the land, which are all on acre-plus lots,” Zlotnick says. The commercial developer asked Woodmont to come up with an appropriate residential project for the 19 acres on the west side of the parcel, and Woodmont went straight to the source. “They asked local officials what the borough would like to see on the site,” says Montvale Planning Board Chairman John DePinto.

Woodmont learned that the borough wanted the new residential development to not only shield residents from the commercial project, but also enhance property values and provide lifestyle-appropriate, empty-nester housing, which was lacking in the area. “We realized we could design the project to do both those things,” says Witmondt. (See sidebar below.)

The Chadwick’s interior merchandising is transitional and warm, yet relatively clean-lined and uncluttered.
Creamy hues and astutely positioned cabinetry bring out the best in the angular, relatively compact kitchen.

Woodmont’s due diligence earned its plans a green light from the planning board in October 2005, an “unprecedented two months after the first hearing on the project, because it was a very unique and creative way to satisfy a lot of needs, protect the value of the property and accommodate the broader spectrum of housing types needed in the region,” says DePinto. Besides providing Montvale with townhomes, which are scarce in the area, the development fees the project generates (which DePinto pegs at $200,000) will help the borough fulfill its state-mandated, affordable-housing obligations.

Townhomes with a single-family feel Aesthetics are important in Montvale, where an elegant country colonial look prevails, so Woodmont turned to Robert Zampolin, a Westwood, N.J., architect known for producing award-winning, high-end, single-family custom homes, to design the project.

“The challenge was to create attached homes that don’t look or live like attached homes,” says Zampolin. His solution was to group them in varying clusters of two, three or four units, and create multiple rooflines so that none look cookie cutter. “You can easily find your own home,” he quips. Though they are townhomes in theory, they live like single-family homes in practice, Zampolin says.

Indeed, the picturesque homes have large, wide rooms and high ceilings, and are loaded with highly coveted design details and state-of-the-art amenities. Three floor plans offer three to five bedrooms and 4½ to 5½ bathrooms; two plans have first-floor master suites. All sport charming clapboard facades with rich stone water tables made of maintenance-free engineered materials; steeply pitched roofs; spacious two-car garages; and every amenity imaginable from professional stainless-steel kitchen appliances, Pella windows and high-tech wiring systems to show-stopping staircases, oak hardwood floors and opulently layered moldings and trimwork.

Woodmont enhanced the building envelope with insulation that exceeds New Jersey code, and used Energy Star-rated appliances, windows and framing and high-efficiency, zoned heating and cooling systems.



Project: The Enclave at Montvale

Location: Montvale, N.J.

Buyer profile: Affluent empty nesters

Square footage: 3,800 to 5,200 square feet

Sales price: $1.2 million to $1.5 million

Hard costs (all three models): $140 per square foot

Builder: Woodmont Properties, Parsippany, N.J.

Architect: Zampolin & Associates, Westwood, N.J.

Interior Designer: Lita Dirks & Co., Greenwood Village, Colo.


Appliances: Broan, Jenn-Air, Viking

Doors: Pella

Paint: Benjamin Moore

Plumbing fixtures: Kohler

Roofing: GAF

Siding: CertainTeed

Windows: Pella

Merchandising Showcases Elegance, Functionality

“Often, developers who build expensive housing don’t feel they need to do a model unit because the structure sells itself,” says Lita Dirks, a nationally renowned interior merchandiser who heads an eponymous Denver-area firm. Nothing could be further from the truth. “These buyers are coming out of huge, single-family homes and are used to living large. It’s a move down, but you don’t want them to feel that way, so you need to show them how the place will live.”

Dirks pegged Enclave buyers as “classic sophisticates” who coveted “elegance” and carefully embraced “trendy touches.” They selected the Chadwyck, a 5,144-square-foot plan with a first-floor master suite, as the model, and pumped up its already lavish architectural details, paneling and trim. While all the rooms were furnished to feel warm, inviting and elegant, they were also given strategic purpose, Dirks says. The living room had to be able to do double duty for formal or casual occasions. The upper level had to accommodate visiting family and friends. The master suite, with its soaring ceiling and expansive windows, still had to be serene and nurturing, and the irregularly shaped, angled kitchen had to feel open, luxurious and efficient.

Given all the compliments Woodmont Properties has received about the Chadwyck model, company President Lewis Zlotnick has no doubt those goals were met. “People rave about it and keep asking us if we will do a home the same way for them if they buy here,” Zlotnick laughs.

Reshaping the View

Woodmont Properties’ original plan for the Enclave at Montvale called for a 10-foot-wide, 1,100-foot-long buffer zone of thick foliage and 35 townhomes. But the Montvale Planning Board wanted a more substantial cushion between the townhomes and the high-end, single-family homes on the west side of the development. Based on feedback from the zoning board, Woodmont increased the width of the west-side buffer zone to 50 feet. They also replaced 15 townhomes on the east side with eight, acre-plus lots for custom single-family homes, creating more effective transition zones on each side of the development.

The new plan “didn’t compromise profitability because we were able to create such uniquely designed homes that the purchase prices could take the lack of density into account,” says Woodmont President Lewis Zlotnick. But it did require some creative landscaping. “We had to really beef up the foliage to make sure it would be both visually and physically impenetrable and block the residents’ view of the office building year-round.”

Woodmont worked with landscape architect LMS Design Group of Hillsborough, N.J., and a local nursery to select and plant a variety of hardy evergreens that would fulfill this objective. Woodmont’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tom Jablonski, spent two days at the nursery hand-picking trees for variety, height, color, growth potential, shape, texture and the amount of immediate coverage each tree would provide. The developer purchased approximately 200 trees, including such varieties as Norway spruce, Arizona cypress, Deodor cedar and American holly and ranging in height from seven to 18 feet.

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