Hillandale earns praiseNational homebuilders laud the 36-home project.

"Dick Allen had spent a career in the home-building business, working for other people. In 1995, he and wife Marilyn decided to take the plunge themselves, designing, building and marketing the close-in Hillandale development, off Weaver Road north of Wyatt Way.I'd never had the willingness to take the risk before, Allen said. But I had read someplace that when people got older, what they regretted most was that they hadn't taken enough risks. So we decided to do it.Not only was Hillandale a commercial success, but it has received critical plaudits as well. Last week, the National Association of Homebuilders named Hillandale the best-designed community in the nation, among developement of fewer than 150 homes.The award was announced at the group's annual convention in Atlanta.People in the association told me that the award can be very political, Allen said. So it was a real honor for a small builder off the street.Allen spent a couple of years with photographer Art Grice building up a portfolio of pictures. He submitted the entry materials in July; in December, he learned that Hillandale had been selected as a finalist.Allen thinks the overall appearance of the neighborhood benefitted from the fact that he and his wife were in charge of all aspects.A lot of developers sell their lots and lose control over what goes on, he said. We did it all ourselves, even though it took five years.Marilyn Allen and decorator Connie Lamont did much of the design work on the interiors.The two of them spent hours on each house, Allen said.Marilyn marketed the homes through Deschamps Realty and Associates, with whom she is affiliated.By recent island standards, the 36 homes in the development are on the smallish side - the maximum size is about 2,200 square feet. And the lots are small. The quality and variety of the work impressed the national group.We were the first ones in the area to paint each of the homes a different color, Allen said. And each home has a custom weathervane done by (Bainbridge artist) Michelle Van Slyke.Allen's future plans are smaller scale. He bought the meadow on lower Lovell Avenue, and plans to start work within the next 60 days on four three-story town homes. Each will be between 2,200 and 2,400 square feet with a ground-floor garage. Each will also have a partially covered deck facing southwest.In addition to building single-family homes, Allen has small projects in the works in Winslow, none to the point that he'll discuss them publicly.I want to do small-scale projects close into town, he said.To the extent that development in the outlying areas is outpacing development in Winslow, Allen believes that is a function of supply, not demand.All of a sudden it seems like everyone wants to be downtown, he said. I've had plenty of people ask me about the meadow. "

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