Many cities have sister cities. Richmond, for example, has five. Among the communities in the Greater Richmond area, though, the Village of Amberleigh, a mixed-use development in northern Chesterfield County, might be unique. It has a sister suburb.
“Amberleigh is ‘modeled’ after its sister subdivision, also named Amberleigh, in Mill Creek, Wash., a suburb of Seattle,” said Richard “Dick” Collier, president of R.E. Collier Inc. – Builder. “Residents there consider us Amberleigh ‘East’ and themselves Amberleigh ‘West.’”
It all started back in 1999, when Collier’s company bought a 40-acre parcel of farmland owned by Robert “Bobby Lee” and Emily Bates. (The company also bought a smaller, adjacent parcel, bringing the total to 41.6 acres.)
The farm was located on Hull Street Road, directly across from the Rockwood Office Park that Collier had developed in 1979, and he’d wanted to buy it for 20 years.
He also knew precisely what he wanted to do with the land. He’d seen a magazine article about the Amberleigh development in Washington State, and during the negotiations for the Bates farmland, he contacted its architect, Seattle-based Minthun Partners.
After the land deal closed, Collier and his wife Sarah flew to Seattle and toured the development’s collection of Craftsman-style homes. Arranged as a maintenance-free village where residents could live, shop, work and dine without leaving the development, it harkened back to a “simpler time,” said Bruce Crandall, a real estate agent with Virginia Properties, a Long and Foster Company, and one of three site agents for Chesterfield’s Amberleigh.
After touring the Seattle development, “we were totally convinced we needed a non-age-restricted, Amberleigh-style community and decided to export the Amberleigh concept to Virginia,” Collier said.
Collier bought the exclusive rights to use the West Coast Amberleigh’s plans within a 100-mile radius of Richmond, and he soon broke ground on Richmond’s version of the West Coast development.
In the first phase of construction, Collier’s company dedicated 26 acres to residential development and common spaces, with an additional 15.6 acres set aside for commercial development.
Bill Reynolds, Collier’s in-house designer, “tailored” some of the house plans to meet buyers’ preferences, and no two houses in Amberleigh are exactly alike. Still, residents of the West Coast Amberleigh would feel at home in the Chesterfield development.
“Exterior plans are so similar one might forget which coast they were actually on,” said Collier, whose company is the development’s sole builder.
Collier’s company previously developed Westover Hills West in South Richmond, Bexley East in Chesterfield County and Terjo Village in Chester. It also has built homes in such neighborhoods as Chesterfield County’s Clarke’s Forge, Chesdin Landing and Founders Bridge.
Currently, Amberleigh has 109 homes, with another four under construction. They feature first-floor master suites and cobbled paver driveways. (Sixteen lots remain available.)
Construction on an additional 44 residential lots is scheduled to start next year as part of the development’s Phase II. (Collier’s company bought the 17.6 acres for Phase II in 2007.)
From the beginning, ensuring that homeowners would be a short walk away from services and conveniences was central, Collier said. Currently, the development’s commercial district has nine commercial buildings, including a medical office building. When Phase II is built out, it will have 20.
Amenities in Amberleigh include a clubhouse with a kitchen, an exercise room and a pool, as well as landscaped common areas and tree-lined sidewalks with streetlamps.
The Amberleigh Homeowners Association also sponsors social events throughout the year, in addition to hosting coffee gatherings, book club meetings and board game events.
“Recent activities include an ice cream social featuring the Monacan High School band, a World Series and World Cup viewing in the clubhouse, a group trip to a Virginia winery and a Fourth of July poolside cookout,” said Paul DeLosh, president of the homeowners association. “Upcoming events include August’s National Night Out event.”
The development’s maintenance-free policy and its convenient location – with nearby shops, restaurants and entertainment as well as easy access to State Route 288 – attracts homebuyers, as does Amberleigh’s active lifestyle, Crandall said.
But its biggest attraction, DeLosh said, might be the one that convinced Collier to visit the West Coast Amberleigh back in 1999: A chance “to simplify one’s life.”
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