There's no secret to New Urban West's civic and business success with its 222-home Brookside community in North Escondido. The company simply partnered with the city to solve municipal needs; partnered with the neighborhood and responded to their concerns; took the extra steps to be a good corporate citizen; and, built quality homes that complement the site.
That behavior grew out of New Urban West's development philosophy and resulted in a bevy of win-win decisions.
"The basis of our philosophy is to listen to all the stakeholders involved in a project and then shape a solution that tries to respect everyone's concerns," said Tom Zanic, vice president of New Urban West Inc. of Santa Monica.
"We also come with the attitude that we can overcome obstacles," he added. "That was particularly important in this case because the Brookside property had been in the hands of a string of developers for 20 years and had acquired a very negative perception in the community."
Nonetheless, the company purchased the 160-acre site in 1999 with no entitlements.
"We were enticed by the beauty of the property, which is surrounded by tree-covered hills with colorful sandstone outcroppings," Zanic said. "We were also impressed with Escondido's position as a sophisticated city in the country. Institutions such as the California Center for the Arts, a sprinkling of fine restaurants, day spas and excellent shopping provide an environment that is appealing to our move-up homebuyers."
New Urban West's decision has paid off handsomely, and its Brookside neighborhood that includes two collections of homes ranging in size from approximately 2,550 square feet to 3,650 square feet has been selling rapidly at prices starting in the high $300,000s.
But even more noteworthy were the company's civic successes.
The city of Escondido was interested in building a municipal golf course in the neighborhood, but lacked sufficient property for an 18-hole layout. As a result of its partnering philosophy, New Urban West donated 40 acres of its property for the golf course and underwrote the design and construction of the golf clubhouse.
"It was a definite win-win decision," Zanic said. "The community obtained a golf course and we acquired golf course views that will generate higher buyer interest."
The Reidy Creek Golf Course is currently being sodded and is expected to open for play this summer. The craftsman-style clubhouse, designed, built and donated by New Urban West, will be the centerpiece of the 18-hole, 3-par public golf course, owned by the city of Escondido and managed by JC Resorts, the operator of the Rancho Bernardo Inn, the Temecula Creek Inn and other properties.
In addition to donating land for the golf course, New Urban West gave the city property within Brookside for flood control improvements that will benefit downstream property owners.
It also succeeded in protecting dozens of towering trees that meander along Reidy Creek.
New Urban West's way of doing business was not overlooked in the community. That community support enabled the company to establish a nonprofit organization, Friends of New Urban West, to support the company's development plans and to fund local charities. Hundreds of members turned out to support Brookside during public hearings on the project. (Today, the 700-member Friends of New Urban West, which is directed by an advisory board of 15 local residents, continues to donate money to Escondido-based charities.)
In 2000, as the planning process for Brookside continued, New Urban West continued to garner local accolades. Without selling a single home, the company -- a newcomer to Escondido and to San Diego County -- was named "Business of the Year" in 2000 by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce.
"New Urban West is an incredibly good corporate citizen that has set a new standard in how development should be done," said Erick Altona, chairman of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce board in 2000. "Development would not be so controversial if developers would approach development the way New Urban West does, by working with the community and building community support."
Zanic is proud of what the company's public-private partnership has achieved. "From the onset, our objectives have been to create a neighborhood that is worthy of this beautiful natural setting and to be a good neighbor to the nearby residents who have made their homes in this protected area for decades," he said. "We think we have achieved both."
That's an opinion also shared at Escondido City Hall. During the community's groundbreaking, Escondido Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler told a fable describing the history of the Brookside property. In the fable, she described New Urban West as the White Knight.
A role that is the envy of the development industry.
The Brookside community
Brookside offers three sprawling single-story homes, ranging from 2,565 square feet to 3,258 square feet, in The Oakmont Collection. These homes, which appeal to young families and empty nesters alike, are priced from the high $300,000s.
The Pine Valley Collection, priced from the low $400,000s, features three gracious two-story plans ranging from 2,960 square feet to 3,645 square feet.
Brookside features two model complexes, each with three decorated models. The Oakmont Collection, located at 222 Melbourne Glen, features models by Design Techniques Inc. of Newport Beach. The adjacent Pine Valley Collection, located at 2475 Pine Valley Glen, offers interior design by Color Design Art of Pacific Palisades.
For information on Brookside, call (760) 432-8611 for the Oakmont Collection or (760) 432-8819 for the Pine Valley Collection.
Metz is principal of Metz Public Relations.