Prefab homes to form gated community 416-unit development intended to create neighborhood feeling

'Not about snob appeal'

Neo-traditional style meant to mimic U.S. settlements

February 14, 1997|By SHANON D. MURRAY | SHANON D. MURRAY,SUN STAFF

Howard County's first gated community will be something of a contradiction: Behind barriers that typically connote exclusivity will be a neighborhood of affordable, prefab homes built in Pennsylvania, trucked here and off-loaded by crane.

The gates of the New Colony Village -- a 50-acre, 416-home community off U.S. 1 on Port Capital Drive across from the Waterloo State Police barracks -- will be intended to create a neighborhood feeling, not give a sense of exclusivity, its developers and their consultants say.

"It's not about snob appeal," said Joe Link, a consultant with MarketWise Strategy, hired by the project's developer, the Corridor 1 Limited Partnership. "It's not so much keeping out people. We want to help provide a sense of community by offering a beginning and an end to a neighborhood."

Howard's only other development with gates is a proposed luxury apartment and condominium complex adjacent to The Mall in Columbia with gated parking lots and rents as much as $1,250, with construction to begin in April.

By contrast, New Colony's homes -- costing from $89,990 to $130,000 -- will have among the lowest purchase prices in the county, its developers say. Part of the low cost stems from the houses being built in a factory and delivered to lots of less than a quarter-acre.

The prefab homes should be available for sale next month. Once a house is financed and ordered, its developers say, it could be built and moved to the site in 30 to 60 days.

Another unusual aspect of the development is that it will employ the concept of "ground rent," wherein residents have the option of leasing their lots for an annual fee rather than buying them -- a real estate structure with roots in the Baltimore area but seldom seen in new developments. The project will be built according to the fashionable "neo-traditional" model of community design, one which houses are set on small lots along narrow streets to mimic traditional American settlements.

The development's features -- a gated community, factory-built houses, ground rent and neo-traditional design -- are not unique by themselves. But, builders and planners say, they have never been packaged in a single project in Maryland.

And the developer says it is a better alternative than what had been planned for the same site: 416 mobile homes.

A gated community seems at odds with Elkridge, long known in part for its bars, small motels and truck stops along U.S. 1. But plans for the housing project are another sign that the vestiges of old Elkridge are slowly being replaced with new symbols: six-figure homes, multimillion-dollar industrial parks and a new, 18-hole golf course.

New Colony Village will be gated front and the back with fencing and landscaping on its sides barring pedestrian traffic, said Lynne Hagan, the sales and marketing manager for Builder's First Choice, which is promoting the development.

It has not been decided how the gates will be monitored during the day, but a guard will keep watch at night, she said.

"With modest housing inside, I don't see how this gated community will drive up the status meter of Elkridge," said William W. Falk, chairman of the sociology department at the University of Maryland College Park, a Town Center resident and former urban planner.

"The area around U.S. 1 is the low end of the county with its industrial parks, not-so-upscale retail shops and so-so motels," Falk said. "A developer is going to do whatever he can to sell homes around there."

But Link said Elkridge has become marketedly more upscale in the past five years: "Elkridge has taken on a different feel."

Another of New Colony Village's neo-traditional features is that it will have a "community gathering place" with a swimming pool, an athletic field, a day-care center and maybe a convenience store.

Howard's first neo-traditional, or "New Urbanist," community -- the 102-home Terra Maria development -- is under construction in Ellicott City.

At New Colony Village, residents also will have the option to lease their lots for a monthly fee ranging from $375 to $425 instead of purchasing them, developers say. The ground rent also will cover maintenance of the gated entrance, recreation center costs and landscaping upkeep.

This is unusual these days. "Ground rent is a relic of Baltimore and St. Louis. Those are the only places where I know they still exist," said Joseph Molinaro, director of land development services for the National Association of Home Builders. "It's very unusual. We never see it, especially in a new community."

In Baltimore, ground rents typically are 99-year leases that cost about $45 to $250 a year, and are paid in semiannual installments.

The project is being built on land zoned for a trailer park, which means placing prefabricated homes on the lots is a requirement. Constructing two-level, or ranch-style, homes with garages is a "creative" use of the land, said Link. Said Molinaro: "It's a mobile park community with traditional-looking housing. It's an odd mixture in this part of the country."

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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