Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old-Style Brownstones Coming to Suburbia; Nostalgia, Rising Energy Costs Motivate Homebuyers to Look at Alternatives to the Typical Tract Home

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old-Style Brownstones Coming to Suburbia; Nostalgia, Rising Energy Costs Motivate Homebuyers to Look at Alternatives to the Typical Tract Home

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE LIGHT

Brownstones in Jacksonville? Granny flats? Some of suburban builders' more recent products are more likely to prompt questions like "Where's the garage?" than nods of familiarity from the buying public.

Jacksonville is no stranger to suburban sprawl. Single-family tract homes blanket much of the five counties, and builders introduce new multi-home neighborhoods on a regular basis.

What is different, however, are the products that homebuilders are finding customers want.

Instead of traditional models, with two-car garages and 18-foot-wide swaths of concrete defining the entrance to a home, some builders are trying their luck with homes that might seem more typical of urban dwellings in Boston or Brooklyn than the latest twist on suburbia.

According to a report by the American Institute of Architects, the trend is common nationally. Partly as a backlash to the increasing distance of communities from urban areas, builders are bringing the city to the suburbs, recreating old, urban neighborhoods away from the central core.

The streets of Midtowne, a development planned by Pulte off Gate Parkway in the Southside, will be lined with brownstones -- three-story townhomes with more than 2,400 square feet of living space. The homes will have all the markings of a northern brownstone, including a stoop with steps up to the front door.

The style also features a pricetag uncommon in townhome construction -- the homes start at nearly $400,000 a unit.

"Our buyers wanted creativity. They wanted something familiar like they might see in a three-story walkup in Chicago or Boston," said David Smith, division president of Pulte in Jacksonville.

Pulte already found that brownstones could be a lucrative niche a few hundred miles north in Atlanta, where the builder will have more than 10 brownstone-type communities under construction by the end of the year.

Although Pulte in Atlanta has constructed the homes for more than five years, other builders, such as Beazer Homes and Centex Homes, have entered the market with similar products, said Atlanta vice president of operations Mark Taylor. …

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