IN 2003, THE CITY OF PLANO, ILL., ISSUED THREE building permits. Then, Lakewood Homes came to town. Its 1,500-acre master planned community, Lakewood Springs, will ultimately have 4,500 single-family residences, duplexes, and townhouses.

The success of the development started with a great range of product with time-tested, well-accepted floor plans at a variety of price points to appeal to both first-time and move-up buyers. Five clubhouses that can be rented out are scattered throughout the site, and there's plenty of on-site recreation, including pools, tennis courts, and bike paths.

Plus, a lifestyle activity director plans a constant stream of events to “create a sense of community,” says Lakewood Homes executive vice president Christopher Shaxted.

Located about 45 miles from metropolitan Chicago, Plano, quite frankly, is viewed as something of a “cow town,” Shaxted says. As a result, Lakewood Homes needed some extra incentive to convince people to drive that far to check out Lakewood Springs.

“If someone drives 45 minutes, they're there for the day,” Shaxted notes. “We have everything from hayrides to Oktoberfest to car shows—whatever will bring people out.”

Lakewood hit a home run at the grand opening by bringing in Chicago Cubs Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg and Billy Williams. It was the first time the company had used personalities to drive a campaign, and about 3,000 visitors came that weekend.

“That's a lot of pizza eaters and hot dog munchers,” Shaxted says.

Market: Chicago

Project: Lakewood Springs, Plano, Ill.

Date sales started: October 2003

Sales through February 2005: 768

Total units planned: 4,500

Unit size: 924 to 4,000 square feet

Price range: $105,000 to $224,900

Builder/Developer: Lakewood Homes, Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Architects: Bloom and Fiorino, Oak Brook, Ill.; Balsamo, Olson & Lewis, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.