And the winners are…

Bringing new life to battered neighborhoods, adding green space and improving connectivity while preserving the natural beauty of their surroundings, communities that won "Best of" honors from judges in the 20th annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Multifamily Pillars of the Industry competition are enhancing the neighborhoods they embellish from coast to coast.

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The 466-unit first phase of Columbia Parc at the Bayou District in New Orleans, La., winner of both the Community of the Year and Best Affordable Community awards, was honored by a visit from President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in August, 2010 when they toured communities that were devastated five years earlier by Hurricane Katrina’s winds and flood waters. Columbia Parc rises on the footprint of a demolished 1,436-unit mid-20th century apartment complex that already was deteriorating before the storm, and plagued with crime and violence. The hurricane damage accelerated existing plans to tear down the blighted apartments and replace them with a modern, mixed income community.

The $138 million Columbia Parc that was designed by JHP Architecture and Urban Design of Dallas and developed by Columbia Residential and The Bayou District Foundation in partnership with HANO will include another 317 apartments in subsequent phases expected to be completed by late next year. The design blends classically-inspired New Orleans architecture with state-of-the-art amenities. Columbia Parc features front porches and balconies, controlled-access and street-side parking, and won New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s praise in a speech before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in August, 2010. He lauded Columbia Parc as a model for “place-based holistic neighborhood development.”

The two- and three-story townhome and mansion-style buildings include 157 public housing units, 160 tax credit units that can be rented using rental assistance vouchers and 149 market rate units. The first phase also includes a 7,400 sq. ft. community center and a similar size management center and is enhanced by the preserved live oak trees that line the community’s streets.

Just over 32 percent of the units are priced at 40 percent of area median income (AMI) or less, 34 percent are affordable for those earning 40 percent to 60 percent of AMI and the remaining 33.5 percent are priced to rent to residents who earn more than 60 percent of AMI.

The project includes a charter school, a YMCA, a grocery store, neighborhood retail, a community center and a senior housing facility and a whimsical water park. Unit sizes range from 711 sq. ft. one-bedroom units to 1,534 sq. ft. two-bedroom apartments and rents range from $576 to $1,300. In-unit amenities include full-size washers and dryers, designer-coordinated interiors that feature hardwood-style and ceramic flooring and carpet, granite countertops with tile backsplashes in the kitchens, with kitchen islands in select units that provide additional storage and counter space. Other amenities include nine-foot ceilings with crown molding, oversized walk-in closets, ceiling fans in living and bedroom areas, central heating and cooling. The entire community is enhanced by lush, manicured landscaping.

The Preserve on Fredericksburg
The Preserve on Fredericksburg, winner of the award for Best Garden Apartment Community of Four Stories or Less, is a pristine, sophisticated Texas Hill Country retreat, located minutes away from the urban bustle of San Antonio. The master planned community that is dedicated to preserving the beauty of the landscape that surrounds it is just minutes away from the cultural attractions of the second largest and most visited city in Texas, which include the Alamo and numerous missions.

Located on a high-profile 25-acre site that has visibility and frontage on three major highways, the 376-unit community that was designed by Humphreys and Partners and developed by Cambridge Development Group and USAA Real Estate is close to employment, medical and cultural centers in Alamo City’s northwest submarket and downtown. Completed in August, 2010, the upscale gated community exemplifies the developer’s commitment to environmental sensitivity in its design, construction and ongoing maintenance strategies.

One-bedroom units at The Preserve on Fredericksburg range from 722 sq. ft. to 861 sq. ft. and rent for $999 to $1,264. The twobedroom units range from 982 sq. ft. to 1,260 sq. ft. and rent for $1,209 to $1,705. Community amenities include a fitness center, electric vehicle charging station, direct access private garages with remote access in most units, a beach-style, walk-in, bi-level pool with a spa and waterfalls, fireplace, cabana and bar. Walking trails with exclusive pedestrian entry provide the opportunity to explore the Hill Country surrounding the community that is dedicated to living green, from use of 100 percent recycled paper to energy efficient appliances.

A pet park, health and fitness facility, business center and courtyard round out the amenities the entire community enjoys. Inunit amenities include granite countertops, ceiling fans, fireplaces, dishwashers, vaulted ceilings, gourmet kitchens with Shaker-style cabinetry, nine-foot ceilings, washers and dryers, oval garden soaking tubs, patios and balconies.

Red 160
The 250-unit Red 160, winner of the award for Best Mid-Rise Apartment Community, is a mixed-use project with 12,116 sq. ft. of retail space. Located on just under two acres in Redmond, Wash., the community that was designed by architect Weber Thompson and developed by Equity Residential embodies a new-urbanism style. The community offers easy access to Route 520 and I-405, so all of Seattle is within reach of the development that is just steps away from retail and entertainment in Old Town Redmond and Redmond Center.

The brand new community that was completed in March features units from studio size to two bedrooms that range from 500 sq. ft. to 1,280 sq. ft. with rents that start at $1,210. Each unit includes stainless-steel appliances, vaulted ceilings, hardwood and ceramic tile flooring, linen closets and private balconies and patios. Many of the units enjoy views of the Cascade Mountains to the east.

The community appeals to tenants of prime renter age-25 to 34 years old-with parties that include food, beer, wine and live music. Seattle-based Zeeks Pizza recently launched its 10th store at Red 160 and Redmond’s first residential electric car charging station also recently powered up there.

The transit-oriented community’s amenities include a pending Three-Star Built Green certification, Energy Star appliances and light fixtures, dual-flush toilets, lowflow shower heads, low-VOC paint and CFL lighting and a smoke-free environment -a first for Redmond.

Outdoor amenities include hiking, jogging and bike trails and the community is close to public transportation and local schools. Common amenities include free Wi-Fi, barbecue and picnic areas, reserved garage parking, a game room, business center, clubhouse, extra storage, a fitness center with a cardio theater and a package service.

Westgate Apartments
Westgate Apartments, winner of the Pillars award for Best Non-Garden Apartment Community of Five Stories or Less, is an environment-friendly, urban community that promotes healthy living and sustainable practices. Built in two phases that were completed in Pasadena, Calif., in November and December 2010, the 96 percent occupied community features studio, one and two bedroom apartments that average 1,014 sq. ft.

The 480-unit community that was developed by Sares Regis Group was designed by TCA to reflect the contemporary architecture of its neighborhood. That innovative architecture has created buildings that vary in detail and design in true groundbreaking style. Materials like masonry, metal siding and industrial windows connect the community aesthetically to its industrially-influenced surroundings.

Westgate also is a smoke-free community, a first for Los Angeles County, so residents can breathe easier knowing the air they inhale is free of that pollutant. Its open space design creates a network of spaces, a combination of public paseos, plazas and parks, echoing the alleys, paseos and retail courts in Old Pasadena.

The apartments are designed to appeal to young professionals and downscaling retirees with community amenities that include a pool and fitness center, a clubhouse, a business center and a theater. Valet trash service, extra storage space, wireless Internet at the pool and clubhouse and a guest suite also are available to residents.

In-unit amenities include air conditioning, bay windows or floor-to-ceiling windows, linen closets, private patios and balconies, ceramic tile and hardwood floors and spacious closets. Kitchens are equipped with dishwashers, frost-free refrigerators, breakfast rooms or breakfast bars, islands and microwaves. And each unit has its own washer and dryer.

High-speed internet access is available to residents at Westgate Apartments, where the 100 studios rent for $1,730. The price tag for the 199 one-bedrooms is $2,250 and $2,375 for the community’s four one-bedroom units with dens. The 165 two-bedroom units cost $2,560 and Westgate’s dozen townhomes rent for $2,970.

Gables Park 17
Gables Residential’s 292-unit Park 17, winner of Pillars’ Best High-Rise Apartment award, is located in Uptown Dallas and is home to a small art gallery. In addition to enjoying stunning views of the city’s skyline, residents and their guests can feast their eyes on original artwork from local and emerging artists on every floor of the 25-story residential tower that is one of the two towers that make up the development that launched in early 2008. The second tower houses 300,000 sq. ft. of office space.

The two high-rise buildings are joined by six levels of shared parking, topped by one acre of green space and an amenity deck that includes an infinity-edge swimming pool and a fitness center with floor-to-ceiling windows. Other community amenities include a poker room, business center, demonstration kitchen, a theater and game room and an onsite dog park. A concierge and package receiving service increase the feeling of luxury living.

Amenities in the one-, two- and threebedroom apartments that average 1,265 sq. ft. include custom kitchen islands, cabinetry by Armstrong, stainless steel Energy Star appliances, iPod docking stations with builtin speakers, mosaic glass backsplashes, bamboo flooring, solar shades and frameless shower enclosures. Rents range from $1,550 to $3,380 for the market rate apartments and $4,055 to $7,515 for the penthouse units.

Completed last January, the community that is a joint endeavor by Gables and Granite Properties is Uptown’s newest highrise, located at the epicenter of Dallas chic in the Dallas Arts District, close to Woodall Rodgers Deck Park, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and Victory Park. A variety of restaurants, boutiques, shops and entertainment options are within easy walking distance of the community.

Built on one acre that previously was paved parking, the LEED-registered community brings sustainable development to Dallas’ urban core with pedestrian-friendly green space and native landscaping.

NAHB’s virtual developer and firm awards presentation will take place at 2 pm Eastern Time Oct. 6 on the NAHB Website at www.nahb.org/pillarsawards.