May 11, 2012

Maple Ridge Project A First For Bluetree Homes

Development offers stylish townhomes in ‘welcoming’ shopping environment


Rhonda Bell and her husband Chris were already living in Maple Ridge when they decided to start exploring the real estate market. They co-owned a house with relatives, but were yearning for a space all their own. For a year, they searched on and off, trying to get a sense of the cost of various properties and what would best suit their family of four. Three months ago, they started looking with a firmer sense that they definitely wanted to buy a property.

“My father-in-law was actually the one who mentioned the Bluetree project — he said there were some really nice townhouses being built in the Kanaka Creek area,” Rhonda says. “It was a little out of the price range that we had originally been aiming for, but it looked like good quality. So then I dragged the rest of the family out to look!”

What ultimately prompted the Bells to commit was another buyer’s hesitation. That purchaser backed out of a contract for a three-bedroom unit, located at the end of a row of townhomes. That gave the Bells a little extra yard space, as well as unimpeded views both in front of and behind the home. They also opted for upgrades to the townhouse, including engineered stone countertops, shaker-style cabinets, an electric fireplace, and a washer and dryer. (The final two items are not included as standard in the homes; buyers can obtain their own or tack them on to the purchase contract.)

We want it to feel like a retail shopping environment that’s comfortable and approachable. It should be warm and welcoming, especially for first-time homebuyers.’

yosh kasahara, bluetree homes

“It was sort of this sense of ‘I guess we did it’. It was so easy!” Bell says with a laugh. “Dealing with the [Bluetree] staff was so easy. They were so helpful and friendly — they remembered me on my second visit by name, and took the time to answer all of my questions. I didn’t feel any pressure at all.” That low-key attitude is a central focus for the company, says Yosh Kasahara, general manager of sales and marketing for Bluetree Homes.

“We want it to feel like a retail shopping environment that’s comfortable and approachable. It should be warm and welcoming, especially for first-time homebuyers. It’s a different take on a sales office, it’s more like a Bluetree ‘store’.” Islands in the sales office mimic the feel of walking up to a counter at a retail outlet, with open shelving displaying different objects. Kids can linger in a corner with toys and a playmat, while parents learn more about the development. When they leave, prospective buyers are even given a crisp paper shopping bag to hold the sales brochure.

This is the first official project for the company, which is branching out from roots at ParkLane Homes. It is a separate entity, but Kasahara points out that they are drawing upon all of the expertise and contacts developed at ParkLane over the past three decades. That award-winning company has built more than 6,000 homes in 100 communities in B.C. Bluetree is launching into the Lower Mainland real estate market with gusto; construction on a total of two million square feet of residential housing will be fully underway by the end of next year.

The projects include 39 apartments in Vancouver at Main and King Edward, 86 apartments in Coquitlam’s Mackin Park neighbourhood, 29 single-family Port Coquitlam homes, and 56 townhouses at 104th Avenue and 158th Street in Surrey. There are also plans for thousands of apartments at a sizable development in the River District at Boundary Road and Marine Way — on the Burnaby-Vancouver border — and hundreds of homes at residential towers at Columbia and Brunette in New Westminster.

Having the Kanaka Creek project as the first development out of the gate means that it is setting the standard for what consumers can expect from the company — and it seems like people are responding. Approximately one-fifth of the Bluetree homes at Kanaka Creek have already sold, with people tending to be either first-time homebuyers or downsizers. Many are attracted by the fact it is located on a hillside, which allows for unobstructed views and additional privacy, as homes are terraced down the slope of the site.

It combines city living with a hefty dose of nature. Residents can go fishing or boating in Kanaka Creek in just minutes, or hike up nearby trails. Mountain biking is another popular pastime for people who live in the area. Elementary and secondary schools are located nearby, and central Maple Ridge is just a five-minute drive away. Development of amenities and retail businesses has soared after the construction of the Golden Ears Bridge, according to residents.

Those who commute to downtown Vancouver also have ready access to two West Coast Express stops, with a direct bus ride that’s less than 10 minutes long. With the starting price of all of the homes under $400,000, Kasahara says affordability is bringing buyers in from all over Metro Vancouver. However, that did not mean skimping on quality. “We tried to include details to make family life easier, like a work station off the kitchen in some of the homes,” he says. “All of the homes have good-sized outdoor spaces, and we tried to maximize storage and the use of space. That’s what value really means.”

The homes are cleverly laid out, with bedrooms strategically placed on either ends of a floor. Living and dining spaces are as open as possible. However, it is the “bonus” spaces that show the most insight into how people live. In one plan, a tandem garage creates room for a workshop, if so needed. In another, an extra room by the garage can be used as an occasional guest room, or as getaway space for a teenager. The recreational space in the four-bedroom unit is the most eye-catching, as it functions as an entirely separate level. A sizable covered deck, bedroom, and bathroom surround a central space perfect for a media room or lounge.

Kasahara says the long-term goal is to bring an exceptional home-buying experience to consumers — one that will be smooth from start to finish. If what the Bells have to say is anything to go by, the fledgling company is already well on its way to meeting that objective.

Project Address: 11176 Gilker Hill Rd., Maple Ridge
Project size: 51 townhomes
Residence size: 3-bed townhomes 1,358-1,649 sq. ft; 4-bed townhomes 2,081-2,186 sq. ft
Prices: 3-bed townhomes from $299,900; 4-bed townhomes from $389,900
Sales centre address: 11176 Gilker Hill Rd., Maple Ridge
Hours: 12 to 5 p.m., daily
Telephone: 604-476-1188
Developer: Bluetree Homes
Architect: Mike Huggins, Burrowes Huggins Architects
Interior Design: Cynthia Florano, Bluetree Homes
Occupancy: some homes available immediately
Sales began: March 2012

Special to The Sun

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