Downtown living is a desire with no age limit

The energy and excitement of city life draws homebuyers to downtown living in the suburbs where they have the best of both worlds.

The feeling of space and ease of life coupled with city amenities and conveniences make downtown living a good choice for many homebuyers - especially those who want to right size because their children are grown and gone.

Buyers at Airhart Construction's two downtown Wheaton communities are invigorated by the urban feel around them, said Christy Whelan, sales director for the builder. "They thrive on it. They love walking to restaurants and shopping and all the downtown amenities and activities."

Building in suburban downtowns is all the rage, said Jeff Benach, co-owner of Lexington Homes, which often builds townhouse communities in the downtown suburbs.

"It's been the rage all over the country for the last several years," he said.

Residents living downtown often have the convenience of walking to a local train station for a commute into Chicago. They also may enjoy a community festival or summer music concert just a few blocks from their front door.

Area builders offer single-family homes, rowhouses and condominiums - from the mid-$300,000s to $1 million or more - in suburban downtowns.

Hogan Design and Construction built five, 3,299-square-foot rowhouses in the heart of Geneva and a total of 11 homes within six blocks of the center of town. Two are custom homes closer to the train and one was built for a quadriplegic who wants easier accessibility to downtown Geneva, said Brian Hogan, owner and founder of the company.

These distinctive rowhouse combine Old World charm with modern open floor plans, Hogan said. Each unit features individual entrances, three bedrooms, 3½ baths, a large enclosed study and fireplace, a two-car garage and the option of an elevator. There is a potential upgrade to build for disability accessibility.

City Homes of North Wheaton, a detached rowhouse development by Davidson Homes, offers 3,600-square-foot luxury homes downtown Wheaton favored by empty-nesters and those ready to right-size.

Homes in this exclusive enclave feature beautiful frontage with customized interiors, making each floor plan different. Some people like more traditional entertaining while others prefer the open concept great room with a fireplace.

"We listen to what our clients want," said David Heise, president of Davidson Homes. "Most of our clients want no dining room and no living room; they prefer a large great room and kitchen area."

Airhart Construction showcases two upscale communities in downtown Wheaton - Courthouse Square and Wesley Place.

Courthouse Square offers charming, Virginia-style, all-brick rowhouses with private courtyards. Elevators access the master suite or office that overlooks the courtyard.

Wesley Place is a charming neighborhood of five distinctive homes with a townhouse lifestyle free from attached walls. Homes feature bright and airy floor plans with a basement and detached garage.

These rowhouse communities don't only attract buyers from the Wheaton area. Wheaton College is a draw for buyers who attended the college and want to move back home. One buyer is a doctor who moved from Virginia; he had gone to Wheaton College and had friends and family in the area.

The Lexington Pointe community of 58 townhouses in downtown Des Plaines shows traditional exteriors that call back to the townhouses of the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. Each home has a free-flowing open plan for entertaining, wood flooring and 9-foot ceilings throughout the main level.

What else makes these downtown developments so popular?

Unique features

Many of these builders offer unique features in their homes that buyers find irresistible.

Hogan's rowhouses in Geneva feature rooftop living with a four-sided glass sunroom on the roof from which homeowners can walk onto a 500-square-foot deck for a view of the river.

"I can't say enough about this community." Hogan said. "It's one of the best places in the world."

Buyers of a rowhouse at City Homes of North Wheaton don't want a condominium, Heise said. "They like the private rear yard space and oversized, private, two-car driveway where there's plenty of space for family and friends to stay for a long weekend."

Wesley Place also features a private retreat level, rooftop terrace option and a private rear courtyard and pocket garden with the option of a screened porch or outdoor fireplace. People want to downsize, but still want to have a garden or plant flowers, Whelan said.

Courthouse Square is part of the campus of the old Courthouse building built in 1863. The community offers a swimming pool and workout room and a very lux hospitality suite that can be reserved for a social event or business meeting, Whelan said.

No maintenance

No maintenance is a key feature at each of these communities. They all provide maintenance-free exteriors, lawn care and snow removal.

The Hogan rowhouses attract empty-nesters and other retirees who want zero yard maintenance so they can lock up their homes and travel, Hogan said.

City Homes of North Wheaton also sees many buyers where travel is a priority, and these rowhouses fit the bill. "These are nice homes for owners who want to be able to shut the door and travel to other parts of the country without worrying about upkeep," Heise said.

As for Courthouse Square: "Everything is taken care of to the Nth degree," Whelan said.

Vibrant downtowns

Each of these communities sit in a vibrant suburban downtown where there's a lot of action.

Geneva's Chamber of Commerce says Geneva has 38 restaurants, including coffee houses and ice cream shops within walking distance of the town's center.

"We have a lively downtown with a unique shopping district and a festival almost every month except January and February," Hogan said. "Geneva is a lot like Chicago in that if a restaurant isn't good, it won't last here. People say they come here to eat and go to St. Charles to drink."

City Homes of North Wheaton sits two blocks from the train station for the convenience of homeowners, their children or grandchildren for a day trip or a long weekend in the city, Heise said. "They can take the train and not worry about driving and parking."

Whelan concurs. "Walking to the train is key for those who work or play in the city."

Lexington Pointe offers walkability in a downtown Des Plaines location just two blocks from Metra, with quick access to O'Hare International Airport and restaurants and attractions along Northwest Highway.

Airhart Construction is developing Wesley Place, a charming neighborhood of five detached rowhouses in Wheaton. Courtesy of Airhart Construction
City Homes of North Wheaton is attracting many empty-nesters for whom travel is a priority. The low-maintenance lifestyle appeals to them. Courtesy of Davidson Homes
Many new rowhouse communities, such as City Homes of North Wheaton, offer the popular open floor plans. Courtesy of Davidson Homes
Courthouse Square in downtown Wheaton offers charming, all-brick, attached rowhouses with private courtyards. Courtesy of Airhart Construction
This home at 48 South St. in Geneva was recently built by Hogan Design and Construction and is just steps from the train station. Courtesy of Hogan Design and Construction
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.