Riverside development in Harford County offers affordable homes for first-time buyers

February 10, 1991|By Elise Armacost

Most builders decorate their model homes with lavish, expensive furniture. But at Riverside in Harford County, Keystone Homes of Bel Air is furnishing its models with goods from J. C. Penney, IKEA, Sears and K-mart.

The homes being built at Riverside, a huge multi-use development in Belcamp, 10 miles south of Havre de Grace, are modest, comfortable and aimed at first-time homebuyers. Keystone figured it made sense to decorate the models with goods prospective buyers would likely use.

"Affordability is a major issue," said Keystone President Robert W. McGee. "An awful lot of families are being priced out of the marketplace."

Keystone Homes and its chief competitor, Ryland Homes, are finishing the first of 1,200 to 1,500 new condominiums, town houses and single-family homes in Riverside's second residential section.

Questar Properties of Baltimore, which owns all the residential land in Riverside, is building a garden apartment complex as well.

Riverside, 1,500 acres of residential, commercial and industrial land, has been evolving since the mid-1970s, when the Bata Land Co., now BLC Properties Inc. of Belcamp, secured zoning for Harford's only planned unit development since Joppatowne.

Riverside's first residential section -- 1,000 modestly priced single-family homes, town homes and condominiums -- was completed in the late 1980s. A 350-acre industrial park is two-thirds complete, and work on a 100,000-square-foot shopping center and other commercial space is scheduled to begin this summer.

Plans for the second residential section had been on hold until BLC Properties completed negotiations with the State Highway Administration to build an overpass over U.S. 40 to handle traffic from Riverside and surrounding developments, said Paul Gilbert, president of BLC Properties. The overpass is expected to be constructed later this year, he said.

Last August, the SHA completed a new I-95 interchange literally at Riverside's back door. Builders expect this to be a major sell

ing point for residents who commute to Baltimore.

"The main advantages are accessibility along with the lifestyle of living in a [complete] community," said Michael Conley, sales manager for Ryland's Harford County division.

Like the older Riverside community, the new section will have its own recreational facilities, including a swim club, tennis courts, workout room, whirlpool bath, hospitality room and bar. Keystone is giving its buyers a free three-year membership, a $1,000 value.

Another plus is that although Riverside virtually sits on top of an interstate highway, the setting is quiet and rural. "The first thing people say is, 'This is really pretty,' " Mr. McGee said.

Keystone, which is building five other Harford projects, will construct 66 town homes at Riverside this year. Ryland initially will construct 144 condominiums, 81 town houses and 111 single-family homes, all available in a variety of floor plans.

Ryland's condominiums start at $64,900 and range from 950 to 1,100 square feet, with two bedrooms and one to two baths the standard. The two- to three-bedroom town homes start at $75,900 and range from 920 to 1,160 square feet, not including the unfinished basement.

The single-family homes start at $98,900, the smallest being 870 square feet plus a full basement. Larger models have up to 2,000 square feet, four bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and a two-car garage.

Keystone is offering two similar town house models, the major difference being the placement of the kitchen. Both include 1,200 square feet on two levels, plus an unfinished basement.

For $82,900, buyers get three bedrooms and one bath, wall-to-wall carpeting, air conditioning and appliances.

"The value is tremendous. There's the potential for a four-bedroom home for under $100,000," said Robert Head, a sales manager at O'Conor, Piper and Flynn's Bel Air office.

Mr. McGee said a Legg Mason research survey showed the same town house would cost $10,000 to $12,000 more in Perry Hall and $15,000 to $20,000 more in Lutherville, Cockeysville or Timonium.

Because of the difference in price, more than half of Riverside's customers are expected to come from Baltimore and Baltimore County; Harford residents make up the rest of the market.

Considering the soft housing market and that Keystone and Ryland opened their model homes just last week, sales are encouraging, Mr. McGee and Mr. Conley said.

Keystone has contracts on eight town homes; Ryland has sold seven condominiums, 12 town houses and seven single-family homes.

Riverside's second section is scheduled to take five years to complete.

A third residential phase of 300 homes will probably get under way in late 1992, said Mr. Gilbert, the BLC Properties president.

Since developing Riverside's first residential section, BLC Properties has sold all remaining residential holdings to Questar Properties.

BLC Properties is developing the commercial and industrial holdings, which, besides the industrial and commercial properties now being developed, eventually will include a 100-acre "corporate center" for high-end manufacturing and labor-intensive uses and 50 additional acres of commercial-industrial development.

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