By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

The 30-acre site was all set up for townhomes, the one multifamily section on tap for the luxury Rivertowne community in Mount Pleasant.

It was a highly visible spot, at the neighborhood’s Rivertowne Parkway entrance off S.C. Highway 41. But the townhome idea never took off, and the land stayed vacant. In the mean time, dozens of posh homes, a country club with championship golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and docks on the Wando River, were built all around.

Then in 2011, the concept changed. Instead of up-and-down villas, the property would handle 62 single-family residences built beside or near the parkway. Framing began early this year, and the model home opens today.

The new village is called Tributary.

“At some point, we thought it was in the best interest of the community (to go with) single family development,” says Mark Lipsmeyer, vice president of developer and builder FrontDoor Communities.

Reminiscent of the winding creeks — tributaries — that feed larger bodies of water such as the Wando, the enclave curves and bends alongside the parkway, which continues to the river.

Tributary adjoins Rivertowne, the posh, semi-exclusive community launched in 1994. Tributary’s homeowners will have access to the swimming pool, tennis courts and clubhouse in the chic Rivertowne on the Wando section, and they can join the tony RiverTowne Country Club.

At the same time, Tributary is the Lowcountry debut for two-year-old Atlanta company FrontDoor Communities. Hatched by a group of former John Wieland executives, including a few with local connections, FrontDoor Communities has developments in Naples, Fla., and intends to build in Watermark, off Bowman Road in Mount Pleasant.

“This is their first property in the Charleston region,” says Will Jenkinson, broker-in-charge of Carolina One New Homes. The division of Carolina One Real Estate is heading sales and marketing at Tributary.

“It’s one they are really excited about,” he says.

A total of 17 residences will be framed in the first phase of home building. Already, six homes are under contract, Jenkinson says.

“We have a good mix (of homebuyers),” says Kerri Mahoney, on-site sales associate for Carolina One at Tributary. Even though the yards aren’t huge, “We have families,” she says. Two of the purchasers are from Chicago, headquarters of Bosch, which has an auto parts manufacturing plant in Dorchester County. Another buyer is from Seattle, home to major manufacturing operations for Boeing. The aircraft maker builds the 787 in North Charleston.

“You have your executives coming in, not looking at anything but the quality of the construction,” Mahoney says.

Top-notch home building has always been a key goal for FrontDoor Communities at Tributary. The developer-builder has focused on erecting well-designed homes in a neighborhood format conducive to homeowners.

The vision was a “new urbanism type development,” Lipsmeyer says. Some of the FrontDoor partners were involved with Habersham, the Beaufort neighborhood considered the pioneer of neo-traditional and new urbanism communities in South Carolina. Lipsmeyer, meanwhile, spent four years at I’On, another prominent neighborhood in the new urbanism tradition.

But taking an idea and transforming it into the real thing is the tough part. “It’s really in the details,” Lipsmeyer says.

Working with top local architects Eric Moser and Eric Brown, the builder rolled out eight floor plans from 2,016 to 3,100 square feet. The two-story houses, marked by sweeping porches and peaked roofs, hold three to five bedrooms and two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half baths.

Floor plans are the Wagner, Ralston, Darrell, Fogerty, Foster, Nowell, Horlbeck and Bermuda — which is the style of the sales model.

Not only are the homes well built, the neighborhood is in a proximate location to stores and eateries. Among others, a new Harris-Teeter grocery store is on the corner, and O’Brion’s restaurant is close by.

The builder and sales group acknowledge that Rivertowne residents were initially skeptical about the neighborhood, which many will have to drive through. The recently completed eye-catching model, marked by muted but standout red shutters, seemed to change at least a few impressions.

“It’s amazing how many people stopped in the road and looked at the house,” Mahoney says.

To get to Tributary from downtown Charleston, head across the Ravenel Bridge in the left lanes to U.S. Highway 17 North. Take Highway 17 through town, passing the Interstate 526 overpass and Isle of Palms Connector. Proceed to the S.C. Highway 41 intersection and make a left. Follow Highway 41 for about four miles. Turn left onto Rivertowne Parkway. Ahead on the right is the sales center. Go another half mile and the model home is on the right.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com

TRIBUTARY AT A GLANCE:

Location: Mount Pleasant

Number of homes: 62 (when completed)

Square footage: 2,016-2,917

Look & feel: Four houses are underway or finished now in a first phase of 17 homes. They are near the middle of the neighborhood, which eventually will border Rivertowne Parkway for three blocks starting at the sales center near S.C. Highway 41. Lowcountry-style homes and landscaping features such as pocket parks will give the community a neo-traditional feel. Homes are built at various setback points so that they’re slightly on a curve rather than in a row. The village is part of Rivertowne and adjacent to Planters Pointe. To limit noise along the parkway, designers are planting shrubs and other green-space in strategic places. Meanwhile, pedestrian and multiuse paths for golf cars hug the roadway and switch sides at designated crossings.

Homes on market: 8

List prices: $383,900-$472,000

Schools: Laurel Hill Primary, Pinckney Elementary, Cario Middle, Wando High

Fun facts: The name stems from the definition of a tributary as a stream feeding a larger body of water — in this case, the neighborhood’s winding main road leads to the Wando River; A brainstorming session lead to the distinctive idea to hand out doorknockers to buyers and from there, to incorporating works of local craftsmen in homes or as options.