It looks like an ordinary subdivision construction site in Odenton, an Anne Arundel community where new homes are selling faster than nearly anywhere else in the Baltimore and Washington suburbs.
But this section has six different builders putting up homes that won't just have a few dozen people tromping through when they are finished in a few months.
In the last two weeks of summer, more than 50,000 may inspect the spacious foyers, cathedral ceilings, gizmo-laden kitchens, Jacuzzied bathrooms, tony master bedrooms and formal dining rooms in these upscale dwellings arranged around a circular roadway just off Piney Orchard Parkway.
From Sept. 9-24, these houses will be the centerpiece of the Home Builders Association of Maryland second annual Dream Homes show.
But now, in the enervating humidity of July, the site is still a dream in progress. Surely, when throngs pour in off Route 175 east of Fort Meade in September, the interiors will be chi-chi, the exteriors will be all twinkling windows and surprising details.
The state-of-the-art appliances, the innovative accents, the manicured lawns will make most other addresses seem down at the heels.
But not yet, not today. The site isn't much to look at. The front yards are red clay, weeds and scattered stone bearing the bulk of high-stacked 2-by-10s, wooden spools of ropy, plastic-clad power cable and other stuff that dream homes are made of.
Low, black mesh sediment-trapping fences skirt each lot, trying to keep the yards in the yards and out of the creeks that silt the Chesapeake Bay. The heavy, moist, motionless air is rent by the whines of blades making shorter work of pine and by the outboard gargle of generators keeping carpenters in business.
Garages are filled with tubs of Dryvit that will become the exterior finish of some homes. The insides of the dwellings are a nearly undifferentiated labyrinth of unsheathed 2-by-4s freshly joined to become the promise of walls. Only with a guide's help -- say, Patriot Homes' Billy Smith, its assistant production manager -- can you see that this clear spot over here will be the upstairs laundry room, and that thingie there is the coffered ceiling over the bed in the master suite.
In just under nine weeks, you won't need a floor plan to figure you're standing where the kitchen island will go. The lawns will be lush local sod, the cables will hum with juice to power turn-of-the-millennium, energy-saving appliances, and all the Anne Arundel County inspectors will be satisfied that the homes are owner-ready, should anyone want to stroke Dave Matthias that $369,000 check for the Fancrest model that his American Homes is building on Summer Shade Drive.
Mr. Matthias, who proudly estimates he has put up 3,000 homes in his 27 years as a builder, has never had any of his works receive the walk-through his 3,832-square-foot entry will get in the 16-day show.
"It's an excellent opportunity for any builder to get an awesome amount of exposure," said Mr. Matthias, an ever-present cellular phone in his shirt pocket and his utility belt carrying trademark blue crayon (for notes on floors and walls to carpenters) and measuring tape.
And that seems to be why the other builders are participating in this end-of-the-summer showcase in Piney Orchard, Anne Arundel's largest planned community and one of the fastest growing in Maryland. The other builders -- besides American and Patriot -- are CC Building Corp., Landmark Homes, Orion Homes and Ryan Homes.
"It runs 50,000 to 75,000 people through various housing products," observed Bob Coursey, regional marketing director for Ryan Homes. "That's a very large group of people. There's no way we could possibly get that many people through our models."
Agreeing was Rick Kunkle, president of Patriot Homes: "We're doing it for marketing purposes. It's a chance to show some of our design features."
Details such as the stairway that is turned sideways toward the entrance, a feature of many Patriot homes; the cathedral ceiling above the two-story foyer; a dining room with built-in cabinets that will allow it to be used for other purposes -- a home office or a study.
Features such as a family room with a built-in spot reserved for a large-screen TV, and false beams spanning the ceiling for a decorative touch. A gas fireplace in the master bedroom. A walk-in closet with three transom windows to provide light without taking away clothing space. A washer-drier room on the second floor to ease the running up and down. A wine cellar being built in the basement (not in the base price, sorry).
This will be the HBAM's second Dream Homes. The first was held last July with the creation of Woodridge in northwestern Baltimore County, on the Carroll County border.
The homes in the first show were substantially pricier than this year's. The most expensive, by Landmark Homes, came in at $775,000 and boasted 6,000 square feet.