McLinden’s houses include some unusual features in the base price. Most homebuyers would notice the standard Bosch appliances and custom cabinets in the kitchen, the Kohler bathroom fixtures, the standard hardwood finish for the entire first floor and second-floor hallway (choices include oak, maple, Brazilian cherry and bamboo), the elaborate interior Craftsman details around the doors and windows and a stained, solid wood front door.
What’s more impressive to me is the quality of materials included in the base price that most buyers probably won’t notice: Marvin Integrity windows, Owens Corning 30-year architectural shingles, icynene open-cell foam insulation, a high-efficiency furnace and a high level of energy efficiency. The houses are all certified to the Energy Star 2.5 level; each one is at least 40 percent more efficient than the current building code requires.
The visuals at School Street are interesting. A prospective home buyer who spends an afternoon touring the School Street project will quickly note the attractive appearance of the 19 completed Craftsman-styled houses that line a single block in this 175-year-old town.
For a spec-built new home community today, the houses display an unusual variety in style and detailing, and the land-use plan draws on the well-established though relatively uncommon New Urbanist principles for developing a strong social fabric. To promote casual interactions between neighbors that can lead to stronger social ties, the houses are close together (in this case only four feet apart) with front porches that are close to the sidewalk (in this case, eight feet away).
There are a number of New Urbanist communities in the Washington area; the best known one is Kentlands in Gaithersburg.
Sustainability principles are also much in evidence at School Street. The homeowners are much less car-dependent than most suburbanites because the main shopping street of Libertyville is only one block away and the commuter rail station for residents who work in downtown Chicago is only five minutes farther away on foot.
Another plus with the proximity to Libertyville’s downtown is that School Street’s children can be independent long before they learn how to drive — once their parents give the okay, they can walk to the movies, shops, the town library and a large public park.
Katherine Salant has an architecture degree from Harvard. A native Washingtonian, she grew up in Fairfax County and now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have questions or column ideas, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.katherinesalant.com.