Drive through NorthWest Crossing in Bend, Ore., and right away you notice something different from almost every other new community: mature pine trees, with lots and homes and parks and roads designed around them. The trees not only preserve the area’s rich timber history, but also represent the developer’s desire to create a sustainable community that would transcend market fluctuations.
NorthWest Crossing has certainly done that, more than tripling its local market share of home sales since the downturn began in 2006 and recording 54 sales (16 of them spec homes) last year amid one of the hardest-hit economies in local history. “It’s the shining star of Bend,” says David Ford, the project’s general manager. “Buyers consistently tell us that the design of the community influenced their purchasing decision.”
Developer West Bend Property Co. commissioned a detailed tree survey of the 483-acre parcel (a former tree farm) to help drive the master plan and integrate the ponderosa pines into the community as both a signature feature and a competitive advantage.
More subtle (if no less effective) measures to create a sustainable community include multiple road connections to downtown Bend and surrounding streets and a carefully planned and scaled retail center that fronts the city’s main boulevard. “It feels like an extension of Bend, not an exclusive or separate community,” says Ken Pirie, an associate with Walker Macy of Portland, Ore., the land planner.
Pirie also attributes the project’s success to well-scaled homes. Beyond the lure of mature pines, he says, “The homes aren’t overblown. They’re compact, well-designed, and efficient. It feels like old Bend.” And it helps that the developer created a committee of pre-approved, financially stable local builders to conduct lot sales lotteries and enforce strict home design guidelines, including mandated alley-accessed garages. By those rules, builders cannot purchase adjacent lots to cluster their homes, mitigating model home parks and creating design diversity that harks back to suburban development of the early 1900s. “They challenge each other to build better homes,” says Pirie.
Homes within NorthWest Crossing, now at 560 occupied units toward a 20-year build-out of about 1,350 homes by 2020, are not only regulated in their design, but also must be certified per EarthAdvantage, a regional, comprehensive sustainable building program crafted to the building culture and climate of the area. “Buyers expect green-built homes now,” says Ford. “Even if they’re not willing to necessarily pay more for them.”
In addition, two of the commercial buildings within the project’s Neighborhood Centre are certified under the LEED-Commercial Structures rating system, the first in the state to achieve that distinction.
Still, the overriding design and construction of the master plan, trees and all, is what truly drives the ability of NorthWest Crossing to sustain its success. To that end, the developer is reworking the project’s next section of 300 lots slated for release by tweaking lot sizes, reducing the number of parcels offered per phase, and adjusting the phasing sequence per current market demand. “The developer’s goal from the beginning was to be sustainable,” says Ford. “It drives everything.”