Nature Loving Development
Ann Fennessy and Bob Maixner weren’t looking to move. They loved their 1929 home in the Rockwood neighborhood on Spokane’s South Hill. They’d lived there for many years, enjoying morning coffee on the back porch and over-the-fence repartee with their neighbors.
When they’d go on runs and walks together, they’d talk about the future. They’d point out houses to each other and wonder what kind of place might they end up in someday. “If we ever moved out of here,” they’d find themselves saying, considering various homes and asking each other if a place like that might be right.
When Maixner heard about a new development called Bella Terra, a community of townhomes on the South Hill built around an expansive garden, they decided to visit, just to see.
“We came over here in June and we loved it,” says Maixner. “Four or five days later we put the house on the market.”
There were four factors that sealed the deal when it came to leaving their beloved home and moving to this new development: nature, community, beauty, and practicality—a place they could age in.
“I think it’s important, especially the older you get, to stay open to change, and to court change” says Fennessy. “Continued growth is vital.”
Downsizing from 3,000-plus square feet to a townhome wouldn’t be easy, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t the right choice, an opportunity to think about how they wanted to live, both now and in the future. They winnowed their possessions. Maixner gave away half of his clothes, they parted with some artwork, and Fennessy said goodbye to her beloved garden.
The difficult decisions that accompanied the move were worth it to be part of Bella Terra. As project developer Roger Fruci describes it, Bella Terra was designed to create homes that would be at harmony with nature. When Fruci first conceived of the project, it came as the answer to a question he asked himself. “I thought, ‘where would I ideally like to live?’ And I thought, I’d like to live in the Japanese Garden at Manito. That can’t happen. Is it possible to bring those kinds of features into a development?” That’s what Bella Terra is striving for, and as new townhomes there continue to be constructed, that vision is coming to life.
Early in development, “the first person we hired was a landscape architect who specializes in healing gardens,” says Fruci. “Bella Terra is really all about trying to create a very beautiful, healing, natural environment,” with all units oriented toward the substantial 60,000-square foot garden that includes waterfalls, ponds, and a contemplative space. The units have basic plans that can be customized to fit residents’ needs, and finish choices are theirs to make as well. “We don’t want to tell people what they have to do—we work with them to try and modify our standard plans, which are already really beautiful, to accommodate what they want,” says Fruci. “The level of finish is like a high-end custom home.”
Maixner and Fennessy are impressed with quality of workmanship in their townhome; this is one reason why it was chosen as one of the AIA Spokane’s Homes of Distinction. One thing they appreciate is the soundproofed walls, which made it so they weren’t disturbed by a winter windstorm, nor does Fennessy worry that the sound of her playing the piano will bother anyone. Their home’s layout accommodates her grand piano, and has an open floor plan that allows for a level of entertaining that their larger but more divided previous home couldn’t facilitate. Should the need arise, the ground floor is designed to function as a self-contained living suite, and there is an elevator installed in the townhome as well (since it’s unnecessary for day-to-day life currently, they are putting it to work as an additional closet for the time being). The upstairs includes a substantial great room, a spacious kitchen, and a master suite. Since moving in just before Thanksgiving, Fennessy and Maixner have gotten to know their neighbors, and their neighbors’ dogs, all on a first-name basis.
In terms of finishes, they opted for quartzite countertops, a variegated tile surround for their fireplace, and wipeable tile for the base of the kitchen island (to withstand the smudges from the feet of their grandchildren when they come to visit). But they didn’t want to start completely over with their décor. “I got my back up about keeping my old furniture,” says Fennessy. The great room’s focal points are art, books, and outdoor views. “I obviously have a strong connection to history,” says Fennessy, who treasures the antique furniture, art, and rugs they’ve collected over the years. All of the furniture in the townhome came along from their prior home. “It’s fun to see our stuff in a different place, to see how it translates.”
Though the process of determining what to keep as they downsized was difficult, they embraced it. “When you are confronted with change, that’s when your creativity comes into” the equation, Fennessy says. And in some areas—like the open kitchen—there’s more room than they had in their larger house. “The kitchen has so much space that there are empty cupboards up there,” Fennessy says.
The upper level deck and a lower level patio give them an easy connection to the outdoors, and Fennessy is looking forward to trying her hand at container gardening (the deck and patio are both equipped for drip irrigation). They envision themselves drinking their morning coffee on the deck and eating dinners outside come spring and summer, and they like walking the one-third mile loop with their two dogs, Lucy and Buster, as well as being just a 15-minute walk to the Glenrose Prairie area. They get gorgeous sunrises and stunning sunsets, when “all of those hills … start glowing color,” says Maixner.
The community also has an extensive fruit and vegetable garden—Fruci calls it a “food forest”—with nineteen fruit trees, as well as tomatoes and vegetables. “Part of the idea was to let the residents walk outside and gather a salad up,” Fruci says. Fennessy and Maixner, early risers, slyly hope they’ll have prime pick of offerings.
“What’s wonderful about this is the attachment to nature,” Fennessy says, something she thinks is critical to be aware of particularly “when we do expand beyond city limits.” They both appreciate being part of something that was intentionally built, designed with community and nature in mind. They love the feeling of “being on the ground floor of something significant,” as Maixner puts it.
The development is intended to be relatively turnkey, making it ideal for travelers or those who want or need to be hands-off with maintenance. Bella Terra handles everything from gardening to snow-blowing to window cleaning.
The thoughtfully-planned, garden-adjacent, nature-loving development is just right for the couple. As Fennessy says, “I don’t think there’s anything like this in Spokane right now.”
“We haven’t been here that long, and it feels like home,” says Maixner.
Architecture & Design:
Kevin Jester – Architects West
Nancy Croyle – Design Source
Bella Terra Construction
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