Sometimes empty-nesters and mature homeowners wish to downsize and get away from the time-consuming chores that come with home ownership. These are the people attracted to Strawberry Fields, an active, over-55 community in South Windsor. Residents are not burdened with the more mundane and labor-intensive aspects of owning a home. Since the community association takes care of property upkeep, residents are free to use their spare time for recreation and friends
While only minutes from Hartford, there’s plenty to do right in town. Two 18-hole public golf courses, Willow Brook and Topstone, provide local action with or without mulligans. The local parks and recreation department has adult leagues for softball, volleyball, basketball, and adult programs for aerobics, tennis, fencing, jujitsu and yoga. For residents who like to shop, The Shops at Evergreen Walk has some 60 outlets covering over 1,200,000 square feet.
Jim Greeson and his wife moved into Strawberry Fields six years ago and location was a big part of their decision. "We’re so close to everything; the grocery store, post office, Evergreen Walk, tons of restaurants, movie theaters," he says.
The social life within the community was another draw. "The community is great," he says. "We’ve made a lot of new friends." Occasionally, the neighbors socialize at the clubhouse housed in a newly built replica of a barn that formerly stood on the property.
He also appreciates the rural character of the town, particularly around Strawberry Fields. This enclave borders 115 acres of the Major Michael Donnelly Land Preserve, where Greeson sometimes goes walking. The preserve buffers Strawberry Fields and guarantees the views will remain untouched by anything but the changing seasons. "It looks nice and nothing can be built there," he says.
Sloping gently down from Strawberry Fields, the preserve includes the Podunk River as well as woodlands and meadows nestled around a small pond. A gazebo set near the pond is easy to reach using one of the walking trails through the preserve. Whether residents are walking their dogs or taking an after-dinner stroll, the trails provide an idyllic escape into nature.
South Windsor was established in 1845 after separating from Windsor, the first English settlement in Connecticut. The town started as an agrarian community and retains that quality to this day. There are still large farms in the area, although these days the farms are more likely to grow strawberries or Christmas trees than tobacco and the cash crops of yesteryear.
The Greesons had also been looking for a chance to downsize. "We were living in a three-story, 3,500-square-foot farmhouse, which was too big once the kids moved out," Greeson says. After looking for quite a while, the Greesons decided on Strawberry Fields because it was in South Windsor. "We wanted to stay in South Windsor," he says.
Being able to customize their townhouse was another draw for the couple. "Fortunately, we bought the unit before construction, so we had a chance to choose some options," Greeson explains. A two-story townhouse was what they wanted. "We have a first-floor master bedroom and two bedrooms upstairs," he says. "All our kitchen cabinetry is white along with the appliances. We went with a traditional, cottage style."
While the original floor plan included a smaller second-floor loft and a two-story ceiling above the great room, the Greesons opted to extend the loft area. This extended area is now a favorite living space for the couple where they relax and watch television.
Designed by Middletown architects Bianco, Giolitto and Weston, the homes boast the ambience one expects from such prominent designers. Of the original 38 townhouse- and garden/ranch-style units, only two units remain for sale, one of each style. The garden/ranch unit has 1,833 square feet with an attached two-car garage. The 2,072-square-foot townhouse unit also has an attached garage.
The townhouse is unfinished so numerous options can still be chosen by a new buyer. Perhaps a sunroom addition or a complete full bath in the finished basement is desirable. There are several options for granite countertops in the kitchen. If outdoor cooking is a frequent pastime, then an expanded deck with gas line to the grill could be added to the plans.
The remaining garden/ranch unit for sale is finished and now serves as the model home. Beautifully appointed, this unit shows why most homes in this community have been sold. A first-floor master bedroom suite, nine-foot ceilings, crown moldings, columns and three skylights in the vaulted ceiling above the great room are some of the enhancements. The open floor design with hardwood flooring includes the great room, a spacious dining area and a well-crafted kitchen. In the kitchen, granite countertops run beneath a glass mosaic backsplash. Richly stained maple cabinets have 42-inch upper cabinets. Stainless steel appliances complete the upscale look.
Standard features on all homes include mahogany doors for the garage and the main entrance. Every unit has a gas fireplace and a laundry room equipped with a washer and dryer. If three bedrooms aren’t needed, then a bedroom can easily be transformed into an office or den. Children under 21 years of age aren’t allowed to live at Strawberry Fields, but can visit anytime.
For privacy’s sake, walls between units are separated by dual-wall construction with two layers of R-19 insulation. R-19 fiberglass insulation is used in the outside walls and R-30 insulation is in all ceiling joists. The energy-efficient homes use dual-zoned, gas-fired, forced hot air heat and central air conditioning.
"There’s nothing east of the river comparable to the quality and look," says realtor Ben Castonguay of Sentry Real Estate about the homes in Strawberry Fields. To maintain the immaculate look of the community, association fees of $417 a month cover costs for insurance, home exterior and grounds maintenance.
An open house will be held on Sunday, January 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. The model home is at 1001 Dzen Way in South Windsor. Strawberry Fields is off Sullivan Road/Route 194. For more information or to schedule a personal showing, call Ben Castonguay of Sentry Real Estate at 860-874-7900.
Builder: Sal Avarista, General Contractor
Price: $339,900 to $359,000Style: Traditional ranches and townhouses
Square footage: 1,833 to 2,072 square feet
Acreage: 15 acres
Tax rate: 29.43 mills
Best feature: Active, over-55 community
Contact: Ben Castonguay, Sentry Real Estate, 860-874-7900
Larry Greene is a freelance writer based in Norwich.