RESIDENTS OF THE GRANDE AT CRYSTAL LAKE LEARN very quickly that they have a high-profile but elusive neighbor who gives their 101-acre central New Jersey community some cachet. Not a rock star or a Hollywood celebrity, but a bald eagle that feeds on the lake near its Delaware River nest, just a couple of miles away.

The endangered bird's presence on Crystal Lake could have scuttled plans for the community, but builder D.R. Horton was able to make changes in its site design that satisfied the concerns of the state fish and wildlife department, allowing construction to go through.

“We lost quite a few home sites, but we made it work,” says Jay Goldberg, vice president of sales and marketing for D.R. Horton in New Jersey. Unlike most lakeside communities, this one has a protective fence around the water, with signs announcing the presence of the bald eagle, protecting what Goldberg calls “our nation's most hallowed symbol.”

It certainly hasn't hurt sales—106 homes since The Grande opened at the end of 2002. Most buyers are coming from nearby Trenton. And though the community is just 25 miles from Philadelphia, New Yorkers also are eyeing the $300,000 homes in the old industrial town of Bordentown.

“You can't get these prices farther north,” Goldberg says. “Most are moving up from a townhome or a smaller single in an older neighborhood, so they have a little equity.”

Lots are 55-by-100 feet for the smaller Manor Homes and 60-by-100 feet for the larger Estate Homes, which went on sale in April, selling 300 homes in the first offering. The high density was part of the early plan to make The Grande a neo-traditional neighborhood, Goldberg says. “But there wasn't enough land” to create a fully loaded, neo-traditional community.

Still, the developer wants a neighborhood of families. There's a swimming pool, a tot lot, and a basketball court on site. “Our focus is on kids. We know from market research that there was a demand,” Goldberg says. “When I drive up there, there are kids on their bikes and Big Wheels.”

And if you look at the right place at the right time, you can see America's symbol of freedom circling the nearly lake.

Market: Philadelphia/Trenton, N.J./New York City; Project: The Grande at Crystal Lake, Bordentown, N.J.; Sales started: December 2002; Sales through March 2004: 106; Total units planned: 237; Unit size: 1,756 to 2,284 square feet (Manor); 2,236 to 2,759 square feet (Estate); Price: $284,990 to $315,990 (Manor) $319,990 to $349,990 (Estate); Developer/Builder: D.R. Horton (New Jersey division), Freehold, N.J.; Architect: Devereaux and Associates, McLean, Va.; Landscape architect: Lipinski Landscape & Irrigation, Mount Laurel, N.J.; Interior designer: Lita Dirks and Associates, Denver

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