Vineyard eyes a 'green' market

Vineyard Lane near Highway 305. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Vineyard Lane near Highway 305.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

Real estate is a bottom line venture.

But Vineyard Lane, a new 45-unit condominium community rising up just north of the ferry terminal where the Bainbridge Island Winery once sat, is being constructed with a different kind of green in mind.

Developers Bill Carruthers and Andrew Lonseth of Bainbridge Island say they placed the environment and the future welfare of the island at the forefront during the planning of Vineyard Lane.

“Our motivation was to build a small community that was in line with the broader goals of the island community,” Carruthers said. “That meant building green and including affordable housing.”

As a result, tankless, energy-efficient water heaters, water conserving toilets, on-site community vehicles and optional solar power are among the many unique features at Vineyard Lane.

Carruthers said 98 percent of the materials used during construction are recyclable and that six of the homes would be designated as affordable housing units.

Taking an unorthodox approach was risky, and as Carruthers admitted, sometimes more costly than more conventional alternatives.

“The extra expense was worth it,” Carruthers said, adding that it will become cheaper to build green as suppliers and developers catch on; something, he said, that has already begun to happen.

Now, on the eve of an April 10 sales opening, Carruthers and Lonseth are hoping other developers will use Vineyard Lane as a blueprint for future island communities.

“It’s too early to tell if our model will influence future development in Bainbridge,” he said. “But we hope for the sake of the island and the environment that others will follow suit.”

Though it took more research at first, the success of the innovations at Vineyard Lane have bolstered the developers’ confidence in the feasibility of their new approach.

“We started from a position of inexperience,” Carruthers said of building green. “Now that we’re further along and have seen how effective and economical it can be, we’re fully committed to this model for the future.”

As part of Vineyard Lane’s effort to promote non-motorized transportation, an on-site automobile will be available for rent.

The property will be connected to Cave Avenue by a new bicycle and pedestrian path that will include a bridge paid for by developers and constructed parallel to state Route 305.

A 4,000-square-foot building known as “The Willow” will be the centerpiece of the community. Situated near a stream and one of two ponds on the property, the building will serve as a gathering place and concierge service for residents in addition to housing a restaurant and hotel units for guests.

“The concept of the Willow was something we came up with on our own,” Carruthers said. “We saw it as the ‘living room’ of the community and as a helpful service because people are so busy nowadays.”

Carruthers said residents can commission Willow staff to deliver groceries, check on pets, arrange for dry cleaning pickup and delivery and cater meals.

Because The Willow will operate as an independent entity, it will not impact homeowner dues.

“Use of the community areas is free,” Carruthers said. “We designed it to be a facility that residents can use as often as they like, but they don’t have to use if at all if they choose not to and they can choose whether or not they want to pay for the extra conveniences.”

Tim Bailey and Satu Muldrow of Windermere Real Estate of Bainbridge, who are marketing Vineyard Lane, said they expect phone lines to be busy when sales open on Monday.

“We’re anticipating a great deal of demand,” Bailey said. “We’ve talked to people who were ready to pay cash on the spot, but we wanted to wait until the time was right.”

Muldrow said they wanted buyers to be able to get an accurate sense of the finished product.

“There was so much work put into the details,” she said. “Now that the project is further along, people will be able to see some of that.”

Bailey said one example is the consideration of acoustics.

“A sound engineer was involved in all aspects of the design,” he said. “Everything was designed to reflect sound so that this can be a quiet, peaceful community.”

The detail work is apparent in the cost of the more expensive units, which top out at $849,000.

But Carruthers said they took care to ensure the more affordable units blended in with the property.

“You can’t tell by looking which units are the most expensive,” he said. “But it was important to us that we provide some high-quality, affordable housing.”

Vineyard Lane will offer flats, townhomes and penthouses, with prices starting at $349,000. Occupancy is expected in late summer and the project will be completed in late fall.

Bailey said it was important to Carruthers and Lonseth that as many of the people involved in the creation of Vineyard Lane as possible, from contractors to crew, were local.

“Almost everyone is from Bainbridge or has ties to Bainbridge,” he said. “Bill and Andrew really care about the island and have tried to be conscious of the issues that are important to the local community.”

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