Fantastic write-up today in the Hartford Courant by James Alexander, a freelance writer from South Windsor. He does a wonderful job at capturing the essence of what the Villas are all about! Enjoy!
A Breath Of Fresh Tuscany
By JAMES ALEXANDER
March 21, 2008
The prime hallmark of good design is that it adds more value than cost.
Using this standard, the Villas at Riverheights, a condominium community that will eventually comprise 52 homes, is probably one of the best examples of good design in housing to be found in the state.
It's high enough in the hills south of downtown Norwich to give residents commanding views of the Thames River and the city, and the architecture brings a taste of Tuscany to eastern Connecticut.
"There is really nothing like it," said Bill Collins, the developer, just before starting a tour of the three models.
In the sales office a few minutes earlier, two customers who had just walked through the models could be overheard: "These are great designs; I love it!"
Before that, another buyer was signing paperwork.
What ignites this excitement and has led to the large number of "sold" signs in front of many of the nearly completed units is a sophisticated, attractive design combined with a stellar location.
The stucco exteriors, mansard roofs and small balconies accessed by French doors on the second floor give the development a continental flavor. Inside, the layout and attention to detail, from flooring to crown molding, have created an environment that people would be proud to call home.
Three floor plans are offered, each containing 1,950 square feet of living space.
Buyers may choose a floor plan with two or three bedrooms on the second floor, or one that features a first-floor master suite.
Regardless, the main entry is at the kitchen, which is large and inviting.
The heart of any home, this kitchen features standard granite or Cambria countertops, an island that can be used as a breakfast bar or work surface, and enough additional floor space to accommodate a formal dining area or a family room.
One model has a coffered ceiling treatment in the kitchen, an option, and upgraded cabinets. The standard cabinets are nearly as attractive, however, and all feature premium hardware, including soft-close drawers.
Crown molding and hardwood flooring are standard, along with what Collins calls "a great trim package." Moldings are a perfect match for the scale of the rooms and the standard eight-foot entry door.
As for the standard hardwood flooring, one of the models shows off the wider-than-normal floorboards. The other two models feature optional hand-scraped flooring that lends additional old-world charm to these homes.
Also on the first floor of the units with two or three second-floor bedrooms is a living room.
Here, the standard gas fireplace serves as a focal point. Enhancing its contribution to the decor is an optional Tuscan stone treatment for the mantel.
The living room also features several nooks that give homeowners many options. For those who entertain, one model uses one of these areas for a bar. Other owners might prefer to set aside this space as a reading area and library.
It could also serve as a home office alcove. The buyer's imagination is the only limiting factor.
Upstairs there are two or three bedrooms and two full baths. The master suite contains a large walk-in closet and a spacious bath with a dual-sink vanity and room for both a shower and a jetted tub.
On the other side of the home, buyers can have two additional bedrooms and a shared full bath, or a second master suite with its own bath. The second floor also features a laundry area with a washer and dryer.
In homes with the master suite on the first floor, the second floor can be used for one additional bedroom and a living room, or for two additional bedrooms.
The extra room in the kitchen could then be used as a family area.
Downstairs, below the first floor, is a large two-car garage, the back entrance and separate storage and mechanical rooms. This storage area can actually be transformed into a club room, as has been done in one of the models.
Here a pub motif was adopted with a copper-topped bar, a large table for card games and a flat-screen television on the far wall.
In another model, this area serves as an office, with room for a large table for conferences and computer equipment.
Heating is accomplished by a highly efficient gas furnace. A gas water heater and central air conditioning are also featured.
One intriguing aspect of buying one of these condos is the promise of tax abatements for the next six years.
"We built in a development zone," Collins said, "so buyers will pay no property taxes though October of 2009. Then they pay only 50 percent [of the normal tax bill] in 2010 with a graduated phase-in of 10 percent a year after that."
While these units are exceptionally well equipped even with no options, there are some extras that have proven popular with buyers, according to Paula Maher, executive assistant to the developer.
"People love the kitchen in this model, so many buyers upgrade to those cabinets. They love the Tuscan fireplace, choose Cambria for the bathroom vanities [it is standard in the kitchens], a closet system in the master bedroom and a semi-frameless shower door," Maher said. She is enthusiastic indoors and outdoors. "When the landscaping blooms in the spring, it's beautiful," she said. "And in the summer, the breeze off the water is great. This part of the state is up-and-coming. I really enjoy coming to work here. With such a nice atmosphere, how could you not enjoy working here?"
Or living here, for that matter.
James Alexander is a free-lance writer based in South Windsor
- Builder: Distinctive Homes of Connecticut
- Prices: $335,000
- Style: Tuscan villas
- Area: 1,950 square feet
- Total Acreage: 6.13
- Rooms: 5 or 6
- Bedrooms: 2 or 3
- Baths: 2.5
- Tax rate: 33.32 mills
- Best feature: Water views and European flair
- Contact: Olivia Lacy
- Prudential Connecticut Realty
- Cell: 860-336-7817
Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant