One might think that with his 500 Walnut high-rise starting to poke its head above the fence enclosing it at Fifth and Walnut Streets, developer Tom Scannapieco would have little else on his mind.
One would be wrong.
With "construction just a few weeks behind" and sales of multimillion-dollar ultra-luxury condos "ahead of schedule," the developer is going full speed ahead on what might be described as the suburban version of 500 Walnut.
The Residences at Rabbit Run Creek, in Solebury Township, Bucks County, will be within walking distance of downtown New Hope, built on a 23-acre tract of second-growth forest Scannapieco bought when he saw how well nearby Waterview, his first ground-up project, went over with affluent buyers - many of whom already had two or three houses elsewhere.
Without advertising except for a sign on the property, eight of the nine two-story townhouses (with elevators standard) in Rabbit Run's first phase are under agreement, he said.
Each of the 37 townhouses will be 40 feet wide. The 3,400-square-foot dwellings will start at $1,050,000; the 3,600-square-foot units will begin at $1.3 million.
These will be custom homes, but though buyers can have anything they want inside, Scannapieco will control color, materials and other architectural features of the exterior.
"Early buyers might have more of a choice" on the outside of the houses," he said.
Townhouses will offer "a more urban-oriented floor plan than the traditional winding roads ending in a cul-de-sac of suburban design," he said.
Instead, the homes, designed by Minno & Wasko, will face rectangular pocket parks at both ends of the development.
At Waterview - eight urban-style, steel-and-glass, single-floor-condo buildings in the "wood-frame suburbs" - the developer thought New Yorkers would be his primary buyers.
"But they ended up being people from Bucks County and central New Jersey," he said.
Prices for those condos facing the Delaware Canal ranged from $710,000 to $1 million, while those on the river cost $1.3 million to $3.2 million, he said.
"They were the highest-priced condos outside of Philadelphia," he added.
Waterview began in 2003 and sold out in 2006.
The single-floor-condo concept turned out to be "a great one," Scannapieco said, noting that it became an inspiration for his tony 1706 Rittenhouse Square Street in Center City.
That building made Scannapieco's name a household word among the region's best-heeled buyers. It has led to fast-paced buying at 500 Walnut, his 26-story, 38-unit condo tower, where prices range from $2.5 million to $17 million for the penthouse.
The Solebury project, like Waterview, "is aimed at ultra-luxury, move-down buyers who don't want to live in the city but want the same kind of amenities that urban dwellers want."
Rabbit Run, named for the creek that flows through the tract, is what Scannapieco calls a "historic and accurate name for the parcel."
"It was part of a farm that was sold off in pieces by the family over the last 30 years," he said, adding that these 23 acres are the last piece.
Scannapieco, who has lived in New Hope for 25 years and began building in that area in the 1980s, bought the land just as the real estate downturn was taking hold of the area market in 2006-07.
That was also when he began building 1706 Rittenhouse Square Street - not an easy time to be marketing high-end anything, or so everyone thought.
The high-rise accounted for more than 90 percent of city sales above $4 million between 2010 and late 2013, when the building sold out.
Recently, Scannapieco said, two resales at 1706 Rittenhouse saw one single-floor unit originally purchased at $4.7 million going for $6.4 million, and the other, originally sold for $4.9 million, going for $6.7 million.