Thomas Jefferson is said to have penned many of his early essays on colonial independence at Rosewell Plantation, a York River estate not far from this equally picturesque spot adjacent to old town Gloucester, Va. When, in 2005, developer Henry Stephens acquired the 17-acre parcel that was to become Robinson’s Pond, he envisioned a quaint little neighborhood with an aesthetic honoring both past and present.
Builder Wayne Harbin readily delivered with a pocket of cottage-style homes (designed in-house, no less) that blend the region’s coastal and colonial influences to a T. With their gabled roofs, proud pediments, and brick foundations, the homes give a respectful nod to the region’s early-American heritage, while wide front porches and fresh exterior colors simultaneously evoke a beachy feel—one that is only appropriate in this rural stretch along the lower Chesapeake Bay, where rivers carve into the coastline to form a series of peninsulas. Lap and shingle siding complete the neighborhood’s waterfront aesthetic; however, an upgrade to vinyl keeps the edges crisp and provides the added benefit of low maintenance.
Although the homes at Robinson’s Pond are small in comparison to the larger residences Harbin Builder constructs (for double the price) in nearby Williamsburg, the project didn’t receive second-class treatment, and that’s perhaps one secret of its success. (18 of the 21 lots were built and sold within the first year.) Standard features include custom cabinetry, crown molding and chair rail, home security systems, fireplaces, salt-treated decks, painted red cedar or wrought iron porch railings, and split concrete driveways with sod in between. Seven different floor plans were offered—each of them modifiable—including several with the option of single-story living.
This variety, combined with the enclave’s charming streetscape and enviable location, captivated an even buyer split of young families, empty-nesters, and retirees. “Many buyers looking for a more upscale home fell in love with the concept and chose to spend money upgrading their interiors,” says local Realtor Kimberly Hockaday.
Getting the site just so had its challenges—among them the preservation of mature trees and the fact that the quarter-acre lots weren’t uniform. “We left a lot of trees in the front yards, which was worth it. The houses feel like they were picked up and hand placed in there,” says vice president Brad Harbin, whose father founded the company in 1985 and continues to serve as its head. “But the site had some contours we had to deal with, plus we had setback requirements of 15 feet on the side yards and 30 feet in front. If we’d kept all of the garages attached, we would have had to stay within that envelope. By detaching them on some of the houses, we were able to put them within 5 feet of the property line.”
In an area whose history predates the automobile, detached garages weren’t such an anomaly, but one lot in particular didn’t cooperate with the program. “It was a corner lot that was pie-shaped and didn’t have enough room for a garage. We ended up selling it with a 10-foot-by-15-foot shed with a parking pad behind it, but that was a tough sale,” Harbin says. “We weren’t able to sell that one until this year.”
With one spec home and one unbuilt lot still on the market, Robinson’s Pond isn’t quite a slam dunk, but it’s pretty close. Anti-sprawl sentiment and the craving for a simpler life have once again put a premium on social connectivity, walkability, and the revival of Main Street. This is a community that delivers those things authentically.
“My husband and I are in our 60s. We moved to Robinson’s Pond after Hurricane Isabel damaged our old house, plus we were tired of running up and down stairs in the split level we used to own,” says Susan Kolling, a receptionist for Harbin Builder who was among the first buyers in the neighborhood. “Now we go for walks into town in the evening and find ourselves right alongside young couples who are doing the same thing with the kids in the stroller. It’s a wonderful place to live. And the house you get is worth every penny.”
Mixed Bouquet: A wide variety of plans and elevation styles gives each home its own identity. Below is a modified version of the Kendra plan. “We try to avoid repetition,” says builder Brad Harbin. “It keeps the street more interesting.” Five of the units, including the model, were built on spec.
Community: Robinson’s Pond
Total acreage: 16.8
Date opened for sale: Jan. 1, 2006
Product: Single-family detached cottages ranging from 1,591 square feet to 2,570 square feet
Price range: $294,000 to $331,000
Total number of units at build-out: 21
Sales to date: 19
Builder: Wayne Harbin Builder, Yorktown, Va.
Developer: Associated Developers, Newport News, Va.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Virginia Beach, VA.