A decade after the 693-acre Turf Valley development was approved as a "planned golf course community" by county officials, its first residents are expected to move into their posh country club homes this fall.
Despite continued worries about Howard's real estate market, the western Ellicott City development will feature $350,000 to $500,000 luxury homes -- with great-rooms looking out on plush greens and fairways of Turf Valley's 56 holes of golf.
About the same time, Mangione Family Enterprises, Turf Valley's owner, also will be trying to market European-style flats with large porches radiating from its hotel complex.
The long-planned, upscale project is proceeding now despite a less-than-encouraging housing market. In recent months, Howard County home sales have been making a bit of a recovery from April, when sales were 23 percent below April 1994.
But a sluggish housing market doesn't matter, the Mangiones say.
"It's taken a long while to do all the master planning and to put all the infrastructure in place," says Nicholas B. Mangione, patriarch and chairman of the family business's board of directors. "We figure this is going to be a 15- to 20-year project."
Turf Valley is a unique development in Howard County, which has no other facility that combines a golf course, hotel and conference center.
"The Mangiones have certainly been visionary with everything they've done in Turf Valley," said Richard Story, executive director of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. When they they built the conference center, the people said, 'Turf Valley? Nobody will go out there.' . . . They proved that there was a market for it and they could do well at that location."
It opened in 1958, when then-owner Sam Pistorio built the first golf course and country club on the property.
He built a second course in the late 1960s and sold the property to the Mangione family in 1978.
After obtaining the "planned golf course community" zoning label in 1985, the Mangiones built the conference center and expanded the hotel and country club in 1989. They also added nine holes to the golf courses in 1991 and added another nine holes in 1993.
Construction crews now are erecting Turf Valley Vistas, 68 detached houses with covenants requiring that they be as pleasing to view from behind -- which is how golfers will see them -- as they are from the front, said Mr. Mangione's son, Louis Mangione. Located at the complex's east golf course, the houses will be surrounded by fairways, greens and ponds.
Also in progress are Turf Valley Villas, six three-story buildings with six luxury apartments with private entrances aimed at "professional people and businesses that want to rent on an annual basis in order to entertain their clients or their staff members or use the facility as perks for some of their people," said Nicholas Mangione.
That sort of product is the kind of thing that corporate executives moving to the area seek, said Mr. Story, and it could aid the county in attracting new business.
"I would think that there would be a market for this because we get quite a few executive management-level people that come in" looking for new homes with such amenities, said Al Cooke, president of the Howard County Association of Realtors. He cautioned, however, that such a market would be a very small and relatively exclusive one.
And in part, it's a market that the Mangione family will be competing for across Interstate 70 with a neighboring, more recently approved golf-course development.
Waverly Woods II, a 682-acre development, sits just north of the interstate.
It has plans for an 18-hole golf course, 1 million square feet of business space and almost 1,000 less pricey homes planned.
The Mangiones opposed the competing development's zoning in 1992, and they have fought a court battle to keep the county from running water and sewer lines through Turf Valley to service the new development.
County Public Works Director James M. Irvin said that developers of the two projects may have come to an agreement recently, after the county threatened to condemn Turf Valley property for the right of way.
But as recently as last week, Nicholas Mangione still refused to comment on his negotiations over the right of way with Donald R. Reuwer Jr., developer of Waverly Woods II for its three owners.
County planners are now reviewing drawings for Turf Valley's next phases of development after the Vistas homes and Villas apartments.
One phase calls for 52 garage townhouses expected to sell for about $300,000 each. They would be built east of the Vistas on the east golf course by 1997.
As those are being constructed, more apartments -- four six-story apartment buildings with 42 units each -- will be built within the development's central hotel-country club complex.
"They will be more for the people who want . . . all the conveniences and comforts of the golf course and country club without the maintenance," Louis Mangione said.
Despite the county's shaky real estate market, Louis Mangione said he believes the project will be a success because of his family's development philosophy.
"We do not believe that they have to be sold out or filled up overnight," he said. "We believe that we're going to develop in a way that's best for the land. And given the proper amount of time, it will sell itself."