COLUMBIA TOWNSHIP -- Interesting, stylish and luxurious housing projects close to the city aren’t limited to Over-the-Rhine. There’s a small community going up in Columbia Township on the border of Madeira that meets those criteria, too.
Just off Interstate 71’s Stewart Avenue exit and and ½ mile from Kenwood Country Club, a forward-looking team of home building professionals is putting together four clusters of four attached single-family homes called Woodland Vistas that will offer craftsmen style on the outside and upscale, open living on the inside.
Unlike condominiums, future owners of the landominiums will own the land under the residences. Each unit’s federally approved “green” construction comes with a bonus not applicable to condos: 100 percent property tax abatement for 10 years based on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
Driving the energy-efficient project is Cranewoods Development President Andy Howe, a native of Wyoming who lives in Florida but has enough work in his hometown to have a second residence in Pendleton.
HHB & Partners real estate agent Denise Guiducci tipped off Howe to a development undergoing repossession by the bank that had a four-unit building framed but only one unit completed. A “fixer” by self description on his LinkedIn page, Howe bought what an architect associate of his said looked “like my dormitory at the University of Florida in 1980.”
C+R Architecture and Design orchestrated a major remodel of the exterior of the completed model, drawing what it could from early 1900s Arts & Crafts homes sprinkled throughout the area. Howe and builder John Hueber, an early local pioneer in LEED construction, did the rest.
The result is not exactly what the remaining 15 units in Woodland Vistas likely will look like, but it meets the developer’s goal of offering quality materials, craftsmanship and safe and easy living to homebuyers.
The $695,000 model home, as well as its siblings to follow, will be easy to live in because the master suite is on the first floor, the floor plan is wide open and there is a shaft that can be equipped with an elevator.
A telescope, a view and space for elevator
The kitchen features custom two-tone cream cabinetry, hexagonal granite countertop peninsula, upcale appliances – Thermador, Bosch, GE Profile and Verona – and a Rookwood tile backsplash over the gas stove.
Flooring in the kitchen and all the way through the dining area across the living room is cherry. Built-in shelves and cabinetry with granite tops flank a gas fireplace, and the nine-foot ceiling is lined with step-down molding. Four seven-foot windows and a glass door face south to the Ohio River Valley.
The door leads out to a terrace that runs across the back of the home.
A can’t miss: The coin-operated binocular-style telescope used at tourist sites across the country.
“I’m always trying to do something different so that when somebody leaves, they remember my unit,” Howe said of the binoculars that spy all the way to the tiara atop Queen City Tower, Downtown.
“After 9/11, I actually bought one on eBay. It was one of the coin telescopes that was on the observation deck at O’Hare (Chicago) airport. I thought it would be cool to have something like this on our decks,” he said.
Next he found a Canadian company that refurbishes and sells the scopes, so he bought about five more that had been used at Universal Studios or Disneyland. Each has a brass plaque authenticating its provenance.
Off the living room is an expansive master bedroom that features built-ins as well as a 12-foot by 6-foot walk-in closet with adjustable shelves and built in drawers.
The master bathroom suite is even larger. The granite that surrounds the plus-size tub extends below a glass wall of the shower to form a bench.There are two shower heads: rain and handheld.
The stairs to the carpeted bedrooms are off the open front door entry which features a craftsman-inspired chandelier that matches the lighting in the dining area and over the peninsula. The bedroom facing the valley view is extra large, and the other has double doors, making it appropriate for use as a library.
A bonus area on the second-floor landing is furnished with shelves, cabinets and a desk.
The lower level accesses a two-car garage and has a full-bathroom and large room that leads outside to a paved patio. The room, which has a built in stereo speaker system, is a potential bar, billiards or Ping-Pong room or a so-called “man cave.”
A shaft for an elevator leads up from the lower level to the top.
“If your life changes over the years,” Howe said, “you can live there as if it’s a ranch home.”
Meanwhile, the space can be used for storage, a second laundry space or even a bar, he said.
The next three clusters of homes will be two stories not three, and will feature large master suites on the first floor and a second room with a bathroom that could be a study or second bedroom.
The exterior of the landominiums are what CR Architecture + Design Sari Lehtinen describes as modern “Midwestern craftsman.” They feature porches with tapered columns and detailed millwork. The gables, dormer windows, bracketed bay windows, colors and finishes are of the American craftsman style that was popular from the very end of the 1800s to the early 1930s.
She said she used “architectural tricks” to design large homes – 2,900-3,500 square feet in living space – that look cozy and project a cottage, bungalow-like feel from the outside.
Among the details that achieve that feel are the balance of stone and siding, era-appropriate color combinations, gas porch lights, Arts & Crafts rain chains off the rooflines, bird-themed Rookwood tiles embedded below the address numbers and Old Chicago paver paths.
Inside, it’s a whole different story. Howe, who is an “amateur” interior designer, will offer modern touches because that’s what most people want.
Tax Breaks for Green Living
And they want abated taxes. Unlike some communities that require higher LEED achievement, Columbia Township offers its tax breaks at the lowest level set by the U.S. Green Building Council – certified – not silver, gold or platinum.
Builder Hueber said the model home is about a few minor plumbing changes and one “blower door” test of the home’s air tightness away from finishing a process that leads to extensive LEED paperwork being filed with the USGBC.
The remaining units will be built to LEED standards so that their owners get the 10-year tax break, he said.
John Hueber Homes has built more than 20 LEED homes since the government started the program in 2006 and is “building some of the tightest homes that have been ever built,” he said.
Certification of the Woodland Vistas’ model home should take about six months.
This is part of the series, called Home Tour, where WCPO contributor Brent Coleman opens the front door to historic, unique, luxurious or just darned interesting homes in the Tri-State. Join him on the tour every Friday.