Monday, December 11, 2006

The Sunny Side of the Street

The Sunny Side of the Street
New Development Offers Solar Panels as Standard Feature
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

Sunshine and innovation are two of the key ingredients making up Vacaville's newest subdivision, Ventana. Bordering Ulatis Creek and Hawkins Park, just off Ulatis Drive and Nut Tree Road, Ventana is the city's first subdivision to be built with solar roof tiles as a standard feature.

"That's probably the thing we're most excited about," said Chris Gatley, vice president of Larkspur-based Edenbridge Homes. "We wanted to find a way to set ourselves apart and truly differentiate our new home product."

The system being installed, Gatley said, should not only blend in with roof tiles, but reduce consumers' electricity bills by about 50 percent. Owners will even be able to monitor their homes' solar performance via the Internet.

For Edenbridge - which developed Suisun's Amberwood community and has numerous other Solano County projects in the pipeline - this is its first venture into Vacaville, and its first time offering solar as a standard feature.

To do so, it partnered with Berkeley-headquartered PowerLight Corp., a global provider of solar power systems.

"I think you'll start seeing more and more builders doing this as a standard feature," said Bill Kelly, vice president of PowerLight's residential division. Currently, he said, only about 1 percent of new homes constructed in California come equipped with solar features.

"Edenbridge is really stepping out in front of the pack and leading the market," Kelly said.

The Ventana community has many other features Edenbridge's Gatley raves about, notably a unique design that encourages interaction among neighbors.

"We've created landscaped paseo pathways that meander between the fronts of the homes and these landscaped pathways serve respective homes on each side of the pathway," Gatley explained. "Each home, in addition to its normal entry porch, also includes a front patio that ranges in size up to 100 square feet."

This design is enhanced by the fact that the homes' two-car garages are located toward the back of the houses, serviced by private alleys.

"All the living spaces are oriented to front of homes," he said.

The three- and four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath houses range from approximately 1,665 square feet to 2,120 square feet, and are priced from the high $400,000s. Homes are located approximately 25 feet to 30 feet apart, on lots that average between 2,500 square feet and 3,000 square feet.

Features include gourmet kitchens, interior laundry rooms, and master suites with oval tubs, separate showers, dual vanities and walk-in closets.

Neighborhood amenities include a small, private park and bocce ball court.

"There wasn't enough room on the site to build a great big recreational facility," Gatley explained, "but there's a lovely (public) park directly next door. We've also got a public trail system that runs along Ulatis Creek."

Close proximity to the creek shouldn't pose a problem for potential buyers concerned about flooding, he noted.

"The flooding that went on last year was no problem relative to this site location," Gatley said. "We're well above the high water mark on the creek."

Model homes and the sales center opened last weekend, with nine of the community's 47 homes currently available for purchase. The subdivision's official grand opening will likely be in January.

Ventana's first residents will be able to move in in February, with all construction expected to be completed in approximately a year, Gatley said.

For more information, call 447-4531.

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