Wednesday, August 8, 2007

down briggs chaney: model house reviews

Tucked away within what wilderness remains in East County, are - what else? - new homes. A few weekends ago, I wandered into three developments now under construction Up The Pike. Here's another installment of Model House Reviews: Down Briggs Chaney edition.

Check out this slideshow of ParkView, Whitehall Square and Aspen Ridge.


Don't let the name fool you: there's a park, but there sure isn't a view. This fifty-house development by national builder D.R. Horton faces the large Fairland Recreational Park, but all you can see from the houses are brush, trash, and traffic on busy Greencastle Road in Burtonsville.

And you can forget about walking to the park - sidewalks are absent, especially in the development itself. The real view is asphalt, lots and lots of asphalt, and it's ugly as sin.

AFTER THE JUMP: Colorado comes to East County, disappearing salesmen, and the ongoing fight to have "Silver Springs" banished.

I toured the Lafayette model, which sells in the $480's. The construction feels incredibly cheap: the stairs creak with every step; the sound of the air conditioner in the basement rumbles through the entire house, competing with the noise of traffic on Greencastle. A bowl of lemons placed on a kitchen counter said more about these houses' value than I ever could.

The sales associate was nowhere to be found - I finally discovered him in the basement, staring blankly at a computer screen, oblivious to my presence. For a few seconds, I stood there, wondering what I should do (and what he was looking at), but instead gave up and quietly slipped out, leaving my card on a table.

Whitehall Square

As is the trend in East County subdivision names, there is no "square" in Whitehall Square, located off of Stewart Lane in White Oak. Local juggernauts NVHomes and Ryan Homes have put together an all-star lineup of their best townhome models, the Carnegie and Astor. How do we know they're the best? Because they're the same homes offered in all of their other communities.

With models named for 20th-century American socialites, Whitehall Square demands an aura of grandeur. And yes, never before has the jumble of apartments in White Oak's center looked so beautiful as from atop the majestic hill on which Whitehall Square is perched. It's especially true when compared to the detritus that surrounds the rest of the site: multiple boarded-up houses, glimpses of barbed wire from the neighboring FDA campus, and an abandoned trailer from a Giant truck.

The Whitehall sales office was staffed by no less than three associates, outnumbering the two actual potential homebuyers there at the time. One of the sales associates offered me his spiel, citing the proximity to the FDA, the Metro, the wooded site, the affordable price - starting in the $440's, he says, adding, "It's not what you'd expect in Silver Springs."

"Silver Springs?" I ask.

"Silver Springs," he repeats.

"No. Silver Springs?" I repeat, incredulous.

"He means Silver Spring," Sales Associate #2 counters, rather annoyed.

Aspen Ridge

The hills on Dogwood Drive aren't good for skiing. But at the end of the road, two new developments by local builder Ruppert O'Brien advertise "Telluride-Inspired Townhomes." Whether or not the location off of Briggs Chaney Road reminds you of Colorado, it's clear from the start that Aspen Ridge and its sister community Albany Grove - the subject of one of JUTP's first posts, by the way - have a style all their own.

Much to my surprise, Sean Ruppert - the head of the company - greeted me inside the model house. The homes were, in fact, designed by a Colorado architecture firm, he explains. And sounding very like an HGTV host, Ruppert led me around, pointing out the open floorplan ("We try to be very 'cas'," he says) and the polished concrete countertops in the kitchen.

"Isn't it very 'mod'?" he asks. I nod in reply.

With stone-and-cedar-shake fronts, large windows and a splashy color palette of blues and reds, the Aspen Ridge townhomes are a breath of fresh air in East County, where most homes both new and old are traditional Colonials. But "townhomes as unique as you are," as the advertising suggests, comes at a price: the cheapest house is just under $500,000.

Come back on FRIDAY as Just Up The Pike sits down with developer Sean Ruppert to figure out just how Aspen Ridge came into being - and if he'll ever want to come our way again when it's finished.


Silver Springer said...

Please say you pimp slapped that sales agent for the rest of us?

Anonymous said...

In my neighborhood we say "bitch slap."

Anonymous said...

as someone who lives in the horton community park view, i can say i wholeheartedly disagree with your assessment. my home backs up to the woods and has a lovely view. i don't hear any traffic noise from greencastle, even with the construction that is ongoing. the house is well-made and nice to live in-- and for the price, you get your money's worth. it's close to 95 and 29 but still quiet. yes, the salesman may be a dud but don't judge the houses based on him.