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Mr. Olsen's Neighborhood

New housing project reflects developer's own vision of what community should be

MONMOUTH -- If you want to see builder Eric Olsen cringe, you don't have to scrape your fingernails across a blackboard or plug in a Michael Bolton tape.

Just refer to his Edwards Addition in Monmouth as a "subdivision."

To Olsen, the 88-acre tract on the south side of town is much more than that. To Olsen, Edwards Addition is his baby, his hope, and yes, his dream.

"I want a neighborhood that has diversity, is a highly desirable place to live and has a character of its own, a village character," Olsen said recently on the front porch of one of his new homes.

The Olsen family has owned the tract of land that includes Edwards Addition since 1971. Not everyone in the family was all that excited about putting homes on it either.

"They aren't necessarily pro-development," Olsen said.

"They would only be supportive of something that had the highest standards. That was the gauntlet they threw down."

Olsen picked up the gauntlet and started designing. The plan includes a duck pond, wetlands area, village green, small neighborhood commercial area for a grocery store or cafe of some sort, sports fields and an area for a school or civic center.

Ultimately, Edwards Addition could contain as many as 471 housing units. Phase one currently is under construction and includes 19 single-family homes and three row houses. Olsen estimates it will take around 20 years for the entire project to be completed.

The houses are being constructed with the look of the early 1900s. Front porches and rear garages are featured. Most designs include "flex space" that could be used for an extra bedroom, office, sewing room, etc.

There are six different floor plans available, ranging from The Demming (704 square feet) to The Bowen (2,888 square feet). Those who wish may also come up with their own custom design.

The space between the street and sidewalk is a little bigger than in most neighborhoods to allow for trees and other plants. The front yards are a little smaller, allowing for bigger back yards.

The streets include "traffic calming" devices such as enlarged curbs at intersections and speed bumps.

"The style isn't for everybody," architect Martha Anderson said.

"But what you've seen in construction over the last 20 years is the same type of house built over and over and over. This is just a style that Eric and I really love. This offers people a choice and fosters a friendly pedestrian environment.

"People walking around the neighborhood will have something to look at. We are constantly getting comments from people that they like the style, the attention to detail."

Unlike many developments, Olsen Design & Development is handling virtually every detail of Edwards Addition.

"Eric is an engineer, a designer and a developer," Anderson said.

"That gives us consistent quality control. We want that consistency. We want people to know we believe in what we're doing. We're out here doing it all ourselves."

Edwards Addition is being marketed by Windermere Western View Properties.

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