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Where We Live

Where We Live: Beechtree in Upper Marlboro, Md.

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By Jim Brocker
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Terrence Allison and several family members and neighbors spent a recent sunny Saturday pedaling their bicycles along the streets and trails of the Beechtree subdivision. It's a pastime that Allison, 43, has come to enjoy since his family moved into their new home about a year ago in the planned community in Upper Marlboro.

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"We walk or ride our bikes if not every day, every other day," said Allison, a project manager for a communications company, as the rest of his group rode up the steep hill on Moores Plains Boulevard, one of the main streets in Beechtree, located on 1,200 acres in central Prince George's County.

The lure of the outdoors is strong for the 550 families who live in the upscale development anchored by the Lake Presidential golf course, which was named one of Golfweek magazine's best new U.S. courses in 2008. On weekends, it's common to see residents tending to their lawns and gardens or jogging and walking up and down the hills of a neighborhood planned to eventually include nearly 1,700 single-family homes, almost 500 townhouses and 240 multifamily units.

Many residents thought the community would be a little further along toward those goals by now. The pace of construction has lagged behind what had been envisioned by Houston-based Ryko Development. Work began around 2002-03 on Beechtree, one of several opulent developments that emerged in Prince George's during the height of the housing boom. But the real estate market was hit hard by the recession, and the demand for large homes has dwindled. The Colonial-style brick-front Beechtree homes are sizable, many featuring 3,000 to 4,500 square feet with high-peaked roofs, soaring ceilings, and spacious living rooms, rec rooms, kitchens and dining areas.

People who moved into Beechtree in the past 12 months have taken advantage of reduced prices.

Rasheim Curry and his wife, Jackie, both 37, arrived last October from Baltimore County. They wanted a neighborhood that offered a resort lifestyle and amenities, Rasheim Curry said. Prices were falling across the region, but builders were also scaling back some high-end features, turning some components that had been standard into "extras," he noted. Being patient ultimately paid off, he said. And Beechtree "had that 'wow' factor," Jackie Curry added.

The fitness opportunities were also important to the Currys, who enjoy taking long walks through the community. Rasheim Curry said they were able to work with their builder, Mid-Atlantic, to modify the plans for their home. "We got what we were looking for," he said.

Other residents have been drawn by the community's signature amenity, Lake Presidential, a public course that residents can play at a discount. The golf course, open since 2008, sustains itself through per-round fees and memberships. Beechtree residents have access to the facilities, including the clubhouse restaurant, without paying dues. Lake Presidential General Manager Nathan Presnal says residents have "an opportunity to buy into a resort lifestyle" without the hefty fees of traditional country clubs.

The golf was an attraction for LaMont Baxter, 46, who has lived in Beechtree for about four years, moving from a townhouse in nearby Glenn Dale with his wife, Kelli, 41. Baxter, who grew up in the District, said living in the outer suburbs required some adjustment. "It seemed a little country to me," he said.

But Baxter quickly warmed to the neighborhood. "Once I got there, it was cool, kind of quiet. It had a real neighborly feel to it." Baxter praised the Lake Presidential staff for working with the community, including hosting a Halloween party for youngsters.

Baxter, who moved into his house before the recession hit, likes the size of his home. "Including the basement, I have about 4,200 square feet," he said. "Some of my neighbors have that without including the basement."

Baxter also remembers when some houses were selling in the mid- or low $800,000s. "Now, it's from the mid-fours to $550,000," he said.

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