Belmont Greene, a residential community of about 500 homes and 500,000 square feet of retail and office space, is beginning to be built along Belmont Ridge Road west of Ashburn Farm.

Jan A. Zachariasse, president of Waterford Development Inc., said he knew a long time ago that he wanted to build Belmont Greene in the "neo-traditional" or "traditional neighborhood" design.

He liked the concept--used most famously in Walt Disney Co.'s Celebration community in Florida--in which design elements are used to promote neighborliness. Houses have front porches. Garages are at the rear, pushing houses closer to sidewalks--and residents to opportunities for chance encounters with neighbors.

The hub of such a community is a shopping area within walking distance of most of the neighborhoods within the subdivision. And everything is connected by sidewalks.

"I definitely believe that communities built in a traditional neighborhood design have proven that people do indeed interact more, they do indeed relate more," Zachariasse said. "They have the opportunity to sit on their front porches, which they don't have when the majority of the house is dominated by a two-car garage. The space is used better throughout the community. The whole planning process really promotes walking and sidewalks."

Belmont Greene's plans call for 234 single-family houses, 150 apartments and condominiums, and 108 town houses. Forty-eight of the town houses will be built "quad-style," with four units under a shared roof but with separate entrances. Ninety of the single-family houses will be built on what Zachariasse calls "village" lots--40 feet wide with room for houses no larger than 2,100 square feet with two living levels and a basement.

An additional 84 of the single-family houses will be on "courtyard" lots--65 feet wide with houses as big as 2,300 square feet and a two-car garage.

The remaining 60 single-family houses will be on lots 85 feet wide with houses 2,500 square feet and larger.

What the new subdivision will not have is cul-de-sacs.

"A neo-traditional community is a community that promotes walking, that does not have any cul-de-sacs and where the streets are built on a grid system and most of the garages are alley-loaded or rear-loaded," Zachariasse said. "It's good because it pushes houses up to the street, which promotes the social interaction that you often find in old American towns where people are a little bit closer together."

Belmont Greene is being built on a site that originally was owned by Joseph Alfandre, who developed Belmont Forest, a subdivision with 200 houses west of Ashburn Farm. The development stalled during the recession, and Zachariasse bought the remaining, undeveloped part of the property and redesigned it.

Zachariasse--who also developed Ashbriar, a 50-acre subdivision near Ashburn Farm, and Silver Hill Lakes, a town house community in Prince George's County--said he looked at the existing houses in Belmont Forest when making his plans for Belmont Greene. "It was very important to us that we created a continuity there," he said.

The first phase of construction at Belmont Greene will include 32 single-family houses, 14 town houses, and all 150 apartments and condominiums.