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SUBURBIA, BUT WITH SOUL CastleStone geared to people, not autos


Borrowing from old urban and Southern design, the new CastleStone townhouse project on the east side of White Marsh will be friendly to people, not cars.

"Every townhouse will overlook some kind of open space so it will not have that parking lot feel that some townhouse or apartment developments have," said John N. Bowers Jr., project manager for CastleStone.

The development, by Nottingham Properties Inc., is in White Marsh east of Interstate 95. It mixes parks, community squares and short streets to produce a "neo-traditional" design, one of the first to be used in Baltimore County and rarely used around the country.

Streets will be short, requiring drivers to make many right-angle turns to navigate through the development. The houses will surround parks and common areas.

"The idea of this kind of concept is to make the development safe for people and especially attractive to young families," Mr. Bowers said.

The road configuration will make it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to speed through the development, Mr. Bowers said. And the parks will be magnets for people to gather, he added.

Sam Crozier, president of Crozier Associates of Baltimore, came up with this design based on plans for cities like Savannah, Ga., or Philadelphia, where a series of town squares and parks give residents easy access to open space.

"Over time, we've whittled away this kind of concept in deference to the automobile," said Mr. Crozier. "This has left our suburban developments with little soul."

Mr. Crozier said he wanted to refocus on open space in designing CastleStone. He sought areas where people could come together -- other than parking lots.

"In most suburban housing plans, open space is what is left over after all the roads and housing are put down," he said. "Here, we started with the open space and designed the roads and houses around it."

Mr. Crozier said Baltimore County helped by stretching the rules the layout of streets. Such rules often preclude this kind of land planning.

"It's great, from our standpoint, to see some really positive design work put into a residential townhouse development," said Arnold G. "Pat" Keller, deputy county planning director. "This neo-traditional design is one of the first to be used in the county."

Mr. Keller said the residents are going to have a sense of living in a community -- an uncommon feeling in such developments. The project is "definitely a step above," he said.

CastleStone is located on Franklin Square Drive, just north of King Avenue and between I-95 and Philadelphia Road. It is less than a mile north of Franklin Square Hospital and Essex Community College.

Nottingham Properties will build Franklin Square Drive further north to link it with Campbell Boulevard, which the developer will also complete. This link would give CastleStone residents quick and direct access past I-95 to White Marsh Mall.

Two builders, Ryland Homes and Ryan Homes, are building the houses for CastleStone. The 298-unit development will be done in two phases, with construction of Phase I's 119 units to begin next month. Work on Phase II is to begin in September 1994. Construction will begin at Franklin Square Drive and move west to I-95.

Ryland Homes townhouses range in price from $106,000 to $112,000 and come in 2- or 3-bedroom models. So far, Ryland has sold 15 houses, said Michael Conley, sales manager for the project.

Ryan Homes townhouses range in price from $96,900 to $99,900, and also comes in 2- or 3-bedroom models. Charles Reich, sales manager for Ryan, said 29 homes have been sold.

Ryan and Ryland plan to sell at least four of the six town homes in each building before starting construction. Interior designs can be mixed and matched from several design models. For instance, the Ryan models offer, as an option, an extra room addition on the rear off the kitchen with a small deck porch in place of a full-width rear deck. And the Ryland models comes with or without skylights.

"The townhouses are geared mostly for the first-time homebuyer," Mr. Bowers said. Mr. Reich and Mr. Conley said studies show most buyers are coming from apartment complexes in Cockeysville and the White Marsh-Rosedale area.

CastleStone is Nottingham Properties' first east of I-95. Nottingham has landholdings from the CastleStone site up to the newly opened Route 43 -- the dual-lane, east-west expressway that connects U.S. 40 with the Beltway.

Mr. Bowers said Nottingham has plans for further residential development on 100 acres north of CastleStone. The rest of the company's land will be developed as office, retail and light industrial space, based on discussions with the Nottingham Improvement Association.

The community group represents residents in the older Nottingham community that lies just west of Philadelphia Road.

"Nottingham was very good about working with us before they submitted development plans to the county and we're very pleased with the way they addressed our concerns," said Marie Simoes, president of the group.

She said her group was worried that local services, especially the schools, would be overburdened if Nottingham built too many homes on its land east of I-95.

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