Standing Stones Will Stand Out

    KENTWOOD — Two of the area’s most noted designers and builders of houses are developing one of the region’s most noteworthy luxury residential projects in years.

    The street work for Standing Stones is likely to begin next month on a dozen acres in Kentwood.

    Nine homes, ranging in price from $400,000 to $1.2 million, will go up in a wooded setting near Lake Drive and Camille Drive between East Paris Avenue and the East Beltline.

    But price isn’t the only element that makes Standing Stones stand out.

    The development will have a 1920s look to it and the homes will be smaller than most in their price range. The average house will be about 3,000 square feet, but will offer more detail and amenities than larger houses in that price range.

    And one of the nine is already sold.

    “I plan on building my own home in this development,” said Wayne Visbeen of Visbeen Associates Inc. of Kentwood, which has teamed with DeHaan Builders Inc. of Caledonia Township to construct Standing Stones.

    “The catalyst for the project is that I wanted to find a place where I could build my own home that would retain, and probably appreciate, its value because the neighborhood has continuity,” he added.

    Visbeen has a growing track record of designing high-end neighborhoods and luxury homes. Some of his firm’s designed homes have sold for millions, and about a dozen have been featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in just the last three years.

    “The idea of doing a themed environment was something that we talked about for three or four years before we even had this property. “And trying to do something kind of retro ’20s and ’30s is definitely a style that I love,” said Visbeen.

    To better grasp Visbeen’s concept, think of Cambridge Boulevard in East Grand Rapids.

    “I’ve looked at a dozen homes in East Grand Rapids over the years because they’re charming, they’ve got wonderful character — the sidewalks, the streetscape,” he said.

    But he said the interiors of the houses are not designed for contemporary living. The kitchens and master suites aren’t right. The mechanicals are outdated when compared to today’s standards, and the houses just don’t have the latest features.

    “My dream has been to recreate an East Grand Rapids feeling in a brand new home with all the current amenities that are possible to design,” he said.

    The eclectic nature, the charm and the attention to detail that existed in neighborhoods and houses during that earlier period are what have drawn Visbeen to the project.

    Another part of the pull for him is that his grandfather designed homes in New Jersey during the ’20s and ’30s and he grew up seeing the finished product, knowing the dedication and effort that went into those designs. And Visbeen feels that others share what he called his affinity for those homes.

    “We’ve designed probably 150 homes in the last seven years in Grand Rapids, and I would say that two out of three customers who walk in our door have an idea of doing a French country, or a shingle style, or something reminiscent of the past,” he said.

    “Certainly, I love it. But the market also loves it.”

    Visbeen feels a buyer for Standing Stone is someone who wants a new home with a lot of amenities, but not one with more space than needed. He portrayed the houses as smaller, but well thought out — a case of quality over quantity. The homes are expected to range from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet.

    “We’ll pay attention to detail. We’d like to do nice doors and trim, wonderful fireplaces, potential inglenook areas. Some of the homes will have an arts and crafts flavor that will have nice beams and built-ins and bookcases, and things that we typically do in our homes.

    “We’re doing a lot of this style of homes nationally, as well as locally.”

    The homes will be built of brick, stone and wood. All will be in a neighborhood marked by tree-lined streets and gas-like street lanterns, a location he described as beautiful and convenient.

    “There is a whole lot of beauty there, and it’s close to everything,” he said.

    Visbeen Associates has been in business since 1992.

    The firm can call the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York one of its clients. The company has also done a lot of retail design.

    But for the past seven years, Visbeen has focused on residential design and full-community planning — such as The Sanctuary in Ada and The Porches at Thousand Oaks.

    “What I am really trying to do is to guarantee the look and the feel of what we are doing. I want to make sure that it maintains its integrity,” said Visbeen. “We’ll customize homes, but we would like to design homes that fit the look.”

    In case Visbeen’s plan to sell million-dollar homes sounds overly ambitious, the market he’s approaching apparently is growing nationwide.

    According to a report from the Michigan Credit Union League, a research firm called DataQuick Information Systems has learned that the national sales of homes priced above $1 million surged by 25 per cent in July 2002 as opposed to the same month last year.

    That number this July was 1,702. And that gain came in the wake of a 48 percent surge during the first half of the year, to nearly 5,500 new units worth more than $1 million.

    The largest percentage gains for both periods were for homes priced above $10 million.  

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