When people visit Willowsford, they know immediately that it’s different from other suburban new-home communities. They can’t quite put their finger on it at first, but as they get to know the place, they start to understand. From its award winning home designs to its amenities and open spaces, every element of Willowsford was inspired by the natural environment, community connections, human interactions, and the joy of living well.
Here are six of the top reasons why Willowsford works:
- Innovation—Despite having four non-contiguous parcels, Willowsford created a branded destination using shared themes and amenities, which are all rooted in Loudoun’s agrarian history. From its signature four-board livestock fencing and understated signage to its exclusive architecture, Willowsford creates a distinctive sense of arrival. Its unique community concept has enhanced the community’s sales and home values.
- Development Approach—Willowsford transformed its land use challenge—a requirement to build only single-family detached homes and to preserve 50 percent of the site as open space—into the community’s key differentiator. The land plan clusters homes among agricultural “theaters” on the site surrounded by tree stands that once served as wind breaks. The Willowsford Conservancy preserves and manages the more than 2,000 acres of open space, which includes Willowsford Farm and over 40 miles of trails.
3. Land Use Economics—Willowsford underwrote most of the amenities and farm infrastructure in the early stages of development to prove to a skeptical market that the developer was committed to delivering high quality facilities and lifestyle programming from the first settlement. “Most communities won’t build amenities until a predetermined number of residents live there,” says Cullen. “We flipped that model on its head, and put all the amenities in up front, so none of our residents had to wait to have the daily experiences we promised.” With just 115 homes occupied, two substantial resort quality pool complexes were open, and both Community Center buildings were active.
4. Sustainability—Willowsford utilized native and repurposed materials from the property to provide authenticity and character. Over 80 percent of the finished wood used in the community centers was harvested and milled on site and reintroduced into the buildings by local artisans. It gives the community a sense of permanence rooted in the land’s history, and is a most effective “green” concept.
5. Community and Culture—“With a lifestyle built around farm-fresh food, outdoor recreation, and well-being, Willowsford has developed a discernable, authentic culture,” Cullen says. Willowsford calls it “agri-culture,” and it relates to the powerful role that food plays in connecting friends, neighbors, and families. An appreciation for food grown by people you know and nature is central to the Willowsford culture, and a great bridge to meeting new neighbors and establishing bonds.
6. Design Excellence—In addition to integrating natural landscapes in the land plan, Willowsford instituted residential design guidelines requiring builders to provide unique product for the community while staying true to select architectural styles and using higher quality materials (for example, no vinyl siding is allowed in Willowsford).
The Ripple Effect
- Willowsford hasn’t just become a great community in its own right; it has impacted the community around it, as well.
- Willowsford has created an alternative to a “typical suburban subdivision” and draws buyers from throughout the Washington region, including core and inner ring locations (DC, Alexandria, and Arlington), and leading edge Millennials—a key demographic for the future of housing.
- Farm and food connections are not only enjoyed by residents, but also by the broader community which purchases local, seasonal items at the Willowsford Farm Market or participates in the weekly CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture), which provides vegetable, egg, poultry, flower, and meat shares.
- Willowsford has raised the bar for residential architecture in Northern Virginia. Surrounding communities are redesigning product to compete with Willowsford—in particular one of the community’s best-selling lines, designed by Dutch architect Piet Boon and built by K Hovnanian, which is achieving price points in excess of $1.4 million.
- The Willowsford Conservancy has formed partnerships with local schools, The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, Rev3 Adventure, and the Loudoun Arts Council to carry out preservation and recreation programs that enhance the quality of life for the residents of Willowsford and Loudoun County.