The drive home for many local business executives has increasingly warped into a northern path. It's the best of all Cincinnati worlds"”the hometown feel of the West, the livability and location of the East, the convenience of the South, and the cultural appeal of downtown"”all culminate into one entity known as Northern Cincinnati, a site that has witnessed rapid residential growth and commercial expansion during the last decade.

What's so appealing about Cincy's northern suburbs, and Butler and Warren Counties in particular? What's attracting top professionals and executives to live, work and play in the North?

"It's all about location," says John Mamone, who recently took over as executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.

With a population of nearly 350,000"”now surpassing the city of Cincinnati"”Butler County created nearly 4,000 new jobs in 2005"”a percentage so high it nearly equals the  jobs created in Greater Phoenix, Arizona, with a population of 3.5 million, according to Brian Coughlin, economic development director for the county.

Warren County is no exception. With a 26 percent increase in population since the 2000 census and a 57 percent increase since 1990, Warren is the 13th largest county in Ohio with a population of 199,514 (January 2006), and is recording the second-fastest growth. Warren County is also ranked as one of the top 100 fastest-growing counties in the nation, out of 3,141 counties.

Kimm Coyner, economic development director of Warren County, attributes the appeal to, once again, location"”specifically, being situated between Cincinnati and Dayton.

"The two cities act like urban magnets, attracting population and new development," she explains. "Warren County will continue to provide the greater metropolitan areas with an environment that offers the pleasures of small town and country living within minutes of two urban communities."

What's located in these counties is just as important, especially the Big Three: good schools, convenient retail and recreation variety. All three ingredients are used in the No. 1 adjective used to describe Northern Cincinnati living: family-oriented.

"The quality of the schools and the amenities that contribute to quality of life are what bring people to Mason," says Jennifer Trepal, spokesperson for the City of Mason. Trepal explains that in recent years, voters have been supportive of school levies, allowing the schools to maintain quality and preserving property values.

The amenities of the area are priceless, Trepal adds. "We have a community center that is just a few years old, six city parks and land that has already been purchased for more hiking and biking trails, nearby shopping, good city service levels and extensive planning processes that have prepared the city for the future."

Kristen Mack, spokesperson for Casto, developers of the booming Deerfield Towne Center in Mason, says the whole area has become a lifestyle. "The school systems are in place, we have parks, safe neighborhoods"”it's just a great place to raise a family."

According to Warren County's Coyner, a number of factors set Warren County apart and make it an attractive choice for top business executives: the quality of life, excellent tourist attractions such as Paramount's Kings Island and The Beach waterpark, upscale housing opportunities, the rural feel and small-town charm.

Butler County's Coughlin touts similar qualities. "We have great schools, tons of shopping and amenities, and abundant housing for all income levels. Our location makes Butler County attractive to people who already live in the greater Cincinnati or Dayton metro areas and for families moving here from out of state."

From near and far, Tristate business executives and professionals have been flocking to Northern Cincinnati. According to census data, households in Butler County with incomes of $150,000 or more increased from 1,000 in 1990 to 4,311 in 2000"”a jump of 331 percent.
And they're willing to pay, says Dan deStefano, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati and sales/marketing manager for deStefano Custom Builders.

"They're not trying to save a couple nickels here and there," he says. "They just want to be comfortable."

DeStefano points to an endless range of upgrades in high-end homes. Considerable cost is invested into unseen improvements, such as heated floors and more advanced electronic air cleaners and state-of-the-art security systems. Home energy and electronic systems are increasingly sophisticated and integrated, and buyers expect their dream house to be fully prepped for wired and wireless technology. "You don't see it, but it's packed full of goodies behind the walls," deStefano says.

Soon it will be commonplace for high-end homes to have a designated space for the central computer server that integrates all these technologies. DeStefano says a business traveler equipped with internet connections could adjust thermostat settings, open and close window blinds or draperies, and check with police on a security system alarm"”all from a hotel room or even a plane.

As for visible amenities in top-shelf homes, home theaters and climate-controlled wine cellars (some with tasting rooms) are becoming as standard as granite countertops and custom crown moldings. One trend is living large"”very large"”outside. The suburban standard of a deck with a grill is being surpassed by covered verandas and gazebos with fully equipped kitchen/bars, along with fire pits, customized pools, waterfalls and landscaping with stylized accents in concrete, stucco, limestone and other materials.

"Executives are much more knowledgeable about these amenities," Mamone observes. "They appreciate them, they understand the craftsmanship, the quality"”and they'll pay for it."

Choosy buyers want it all: the newest and best in housing construction and interior features, residential lots that accommodate the latest in outdoor living and landscaping, and surrounding communities (the term "subdivision" certainly won't suffice) that enhance their investment"”and their lifestyles.

The Home Builders Association's popular Homearama showcases"”drawing thousands to see the newest, trendiest and best in residential design and construction"”have evolved into two "editions." Last year, two Homearama shows were held in Warren County: a "New Lifestyles Edition" adjacent to the Tournament Players Club (TPC) at River's Bend, located in South Lebanon and Hamilton Township, and a "Luxury Edition" at the Long Cove development in Deerfield Township.

Golf communities are becoming common in metro areas across the country, but a TPC course designed by Arnold Palmer is special. Along with Ohi'™s only PGA Tour facility"”rated one of the 10 best new private golf courses in the country by Golf Digest when it opened"”River's Bend features heavily wooded home sites, a panoramic lake and views of the Little Miami River.

Three Homearama's have been held there, including a "Luxury Edition" at Vista Pointe in 2003 and last year's "Lifestyles" version at The Fairways community.

"New Lifestyles" suggests this community offers residents attractive options for activities, indoors and out. Besides the expansive, challenging golf course, River's Bend features a 32,000 square-foot clubhouse, a 5-acre "sportsplex" facility (including aerobics, strength training, swimming, tennis and basketball), and a system of trails and pathways interconnecting the community and providing access to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

One of the most exclusive developments to hit Greater Cincinnati in recent years is Long Cove. Last year's Homearama there was the most popular in the show's 45-year history, organizers say"”so popular that the 2006 show returns to that community.

With a mile of waterways and residential private docks, Long Cove breaks the mold of Cincinnati suburban housing. The average sale price is $1.5 million, and the Long Cove model lists at $2.8 million

Long Cove developers had a commitment to architectural excellence, says Alex Tarasenko, senior vice president of Rhein Interests, developer of Long Cove. Restrictions keep the upscale community looking its best. The homes are highly controlled when it comes to design.

"If we've got someone buying a million-dollar home, it's got to be immaculate," Tarasenko remarks. "These people understand excellence. Every blade of grass has got to be manicured, everything's got to be perfect."

Ria Davidson is a public relations consultant for Long Cove and now resides there. The innovators behind Long Cove are a "dream team," she says. "Every single person along the way is top-drawer."

That team brought forth a development that effectively captures the "wow factor," a place that can leave visitors feeling breathless. The $3-million community center is a stunner, with two pools, private docks, fitness center, wireless internet service, hot tubs, outdoor fireplaces, a swim-up bar, and a deck overlooking waterways adorned with stone bridges.

Described as a "community within a community," Long Cove will soon boast an underground tunnel to Cottell Park, which offers two miles of hiking and biking trails, kiddie play areas, tennis, basketball, soccer and fishing.

"We've got an A-plus location, A-plus school district, we're very close to all sorts of amenities such as the Mason Community Center, parks, and great access to the interstate," Tarasenko points out. "These are the reasons people want to be here."

Home builder deStefano says the economic impact of the recent and rapid residential and commercial growth is tremendous. "It puts $1.5 billion into the economy and employs 40,000 people annually," he remarks. "We have a major stake in these communities. We live and raise our children here, and we want to see them succeed."

What does the future look like to the north? One indicator may be San Mar Gale"”the largest development ever proposed in Warren County history, covering 3,239 acres. It could add as many as 6,000 residents to the county population in one building swoop. A scaled-down version received zoning approval earlier this year, but opponents were successful in getting a referendum on the project placed on this November's election ballot.

San Mar Gale, called a "rural village" by Hines-Griffin Land Development Co., would include 2,150 homes (1,650 single-family and 500 multi-family), a 22.5 acre "town center" and 1,000 acres of open space. The original proposal called for more than 2,800 homes, and the developer says the acreage could conceivably be used for 7,700 homes.

The grassroots backlash against San Mar Gale may prompt developers to focus on smaller-scale projects in the region. And should the pace of residential construction slow in Butler and Warren counties, one thing's for sure: the already desirable homes and lots there will appreciate even more. 


Here's what you need to know about the 2006 Luxury Edition HOMERAMA, sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.

LOCATION:   Long Cove, a waterway community on the Natorp Property in Deerfield Township
DIRECTIONS:   I-71 to Mason-Montgomery/Fields Ertel Road exit, north on Mason-Montgomery Road. Follow signs to HOMEARAMA parking.
DATES:     Saturday, June 10-Sunday, June 25.
SHOW HOURS:   Weekends 12—11 p.m., weekdays 4-11 p.m.
ADMISSION:   $10 for adults. Children 12 and under admitted free if accompanied by an adult.

No tickets sold or admittance to the show after 9:30 p.m.

Restrooms, parking and concessions are available on site.

Special Events: 2nd Annual HOMEARAMA Cooks for a Cause, Wednesday, June 14. Cincinnati's top chefs perform cooking demos in HOMEARAMA kitchens. Wine tastings will be scattered throughout the homes. A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to the SIDS Network.

The Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati is a 1,300-member trade Association, formed in 1934, which serves the housing and residential construction industry in Greater Cincinnati and its surrounding counties. Call 513/851-6300 and visit