The Cleavers would feel at home here

WaterView to create town of 1950s in Essex-Middle River

`This will set the standard'

Streets, sidewalks, porch-fronts aim for neighborliness

February 03, 2002|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

When you take a look at the plans and casually call it a "subdivision," expect to be immediately corrected.

The creators of WaterView, in the Middle River-Essex area, believe the 65-acre development warrants a bigger name. For them, it's "a new American town."

Ground was officially broken Tuesday on a site once occupied by the crime-ridden and ailing Riverdale Apartments. Prices for Water- View's 175 single-family detached homes will start in the $160,000 range.

Larry Rosenberg, managing partner of WaterView Joint Venture LLC and president of Mark Building Co., had promised local politicians and anxious neighbors that in the coming months and years they will see a community that "will feel very much like home right from the beginning."

What Rosenberg and his joint venture partners, Enterprise Homes Inc. and Mars Super Markets Inc., which will develop the commercial aspect of the project, envision is something new but with an old-fashioned flavor.

WaterView's "neo-traditional" design seeks to create a community that Ward and June Cleaver would yearn to move into.

To ensure that the $40 million community will succeed, Rosenberg brought in Urban Design Associates, a Pittsburgh company best known for helping to design the master plan for Celebration, a planned community developed by the Walt Disney Co., near Orlando, Fla.

Many of the concepts incorporated in Celebration are on the drawing board for WaterView.

Porch-front homes. Sidewalks. Mature trees. Detached garages accessed through alleyways. Smaller front yards. Larger back yards. Narrow streets. A waterfront view and pathways to Middle River.

"This will set the standard. It is a very unique, wonderful, very warm, comfortable design," said Chickie Grayson, president and chief executive of Enterprise Homes, an organization established by James W. Rouse. "I have to say this has to be one of the most exciting developments in the area, and I mean broader than just Baltimore County."

Trees preserved

What is striking about the site is the preservation of trees. Rosenberg said 75 percent of the existing trees, planted 60 years ago, are being preserved.

"There are a lot of mature trees that are here, we are keeping," Grayson said. "There is open space that faces onto Eastern Boulevard, plus the wetlands that go to Middle River will be a unique part of the community in terms of having walkways and passive open space areas."

Rosenberg said the houses will inspire closeness and yet retain privacy and spaciousness.

"In the front yards, you want the houses closer to the street so that people can talk to their neighbors and see people," he said. "But in the rear yard you will have privacy and space to really recreate in. And on the site plan you will see parks everywhere ... [of] an acre or two."

WaterView intends to be a throwback to the 1940s and 1950s, when people would walk to the grocery or drugstore and where kids played pick-up games of football or baseball in nearby fields.

"We've made sure that what we've included in these homes are what people asked for and what people want," Rosenberg said.

Since erecting a sign for the development three weeks ago, Rosenberg said, there have been 150 inquires about WaterView, whose first phase involves 44 lots. A sales trailer will open in mid-February, and the lot for a model home has been staked out.

The Mark Building Co. had its roots constructing homes in Columbia and other Howard County areas. Typically when Mark opens a community, it does so with little fanfare but much success.

In its first Baltimore County project -- Worthington Glen in Owings Mills in 1991 -- Rosenberg said his company sold 49 homes in the first five days and that was in the middle of a recession.

Fritzi Hallock, president of MarketSmart, which does consulting and analysis work for local builders, predicts a similar success for WaterView.

"They will be sold out and finished here within four years," Hallock said. "But the history of this builder is that they are much faster than that.

"The real test will be matching the pace of construction with the pace of demand. That is going to be the challenge. Can you build them as fast as people will want them?"

Overall, six floor plans with six elevations will be offered, and interiors will range between 1,900 to 2,500 square feet. As for exteriors, prospective buyers will have their choice of brick, stone or traditional siding.

"When you drive down the street here it's not going to look like a cookie-cutter neighborhood. It will look like a neighborhood should ... with a variety," Rosenberg said."[We] tried to be correct not only in design, but also ... for the way people live. Big bedrooms. Big kitchens. Big family rooms. Big basements."

`Building for generations'

Another aspect Rosenberg took into account was "building for the generations." Included among the six floor plans is a first-floor master bedroom design that would appeal to older homeowners.

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