ARBOR PARK VILLAGE IS A PARADOXICAL name for a townhouse community built on redeveloped inner-city land. Perhaps it reflects the optimism about the 36.3-acre development near downtown Cleveland that, until recently, had suffered as the site of blighted and boarded-up public housing.

Built after World War II, “the projects” were conceived as a way station for immigrants and returning soldiers who would soon move up in the world, says Paul Volpe, principal of City Architecture and Arbor Park Village's designer. Instead, they became a dead end for the urban poor.

By contrast, Arbor Park Village—privately owned, publicly financed public housing—is being built as an affordable lifelong neighborhood for the working poor. The first of three phases was sold out by June 2004. It consists of seven residential blocks with 146 townhomes and a 60,000-square-foot apartment/community center building that looks onto a park and serves as the neighborhood gathering spot. A total of 629 townhomes is planned.

With an eye to attracting residents from various income levels, Volpe and his designers came up with eight home configurations and included both market-rate and below-market-rate options. Each city block consists of four townhomes lining the perimeter. Alandscaped courtyard stands at the center, providing a safe play area for children. The community layout encourages “eyes on the street” behavior that enhances public safety, Volpe says. Every house opens to the street as well as to a private patio in back. “Parking is right on the street, not in lots.”

The city of Cleveland provided $10 million in infrastructure. Due to the sequencing of contracts, the infrastructure and housing were built concurrently, which took some getting used to, says Volpe. “The second phase was faster. By then, we had figured out how to do it together.”

Despite tight budgets, the streetscape is lively, with variations in building height, roof lines, and façades. Unit combinations and massing change from block to block. “There are four different brick colors and different-colored siding,” Volpe says. “There are dormers and little box windows and masonry lintels over the windows.”

The response has been great. “People drive through and think these are $200,000 condominiums,” Volpe says. “And that's just wonderful.”

CATEGORY: Attached/ Townhouse community; ENTRANT / ARCHITECT / LAND PLANNER: City Architecture, Cleveland; BUILDER: Marous Brothers Construction, Willoughby, Ohio; DEVELOPER: The Finch Group, Boca Raton, Fla.; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: The Outside In, Beachwood, Ohio

Builder Tip Animated Neighborhood From the beginning, the neighborhood's creators were concerned with the size of the city blocks. Too big and it would be too long a walk from intersection to intersection. Too small and there wouldn't be enough housing or room to park. “We worked from the block to the floor plan and from the floor plan to the block until we got the mix right,” architect Paul Volpe says. “That's what animated it.” The designers were able to sneak in a cottage-style building—“a real surprise.” A three-story brick building on the corner anchors the block. “It gives the feeling that this just evolved over time.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Cleveland, OH.