COMMENTARY

     If it were up to Charles Dickens, this could be a tale of two well-to-do cities, except that one is a village. The city, Pepper Pike, population 6,149 and median household income $143,438, is one of the wealthiest communities in Ohio. Its next-door neighbor, the village of Hunting Valley, population 713 and median household income $250,000-plus, is one of the most affluent places to live in the United States.

     Pepper Pike is on the verge of welcoming two townhouse developments that would revitalize an older neighborhood on the northern edge of the city near the border of Mayfield Heights. Hunting Valley doesn't appear to be ready for a quite different multifamily housing proposal that could preserve while renewing one of the area's most notable historic estates.

     Enabled by the foresighted establishment of a townhouse district along Cedar Road in 2003, developer Jason Friedman has proposed a 40-unit complex of duplexes on eight acres just east of Brainard Road. He envisions homes ranging in size from 1,900 to 2,500 square feet and in price from $350,000 to $500,000. This proposal follows one led by the Orlean Co. that would feature 42 condominiums about a half mile farther east.

     Mayor Richard Bain expressed support for both projects, saying they are evidence that "Pepper Pike remains a premiere location for high-end home construction."

     Speaking of high-end housing, though, few can compare to the 55,000-square-foot Roundwood Manor mansion that has been on the market since 2002 in Hunting Valley's prestigious Daisy Hills subdivision. Situated on about 7.7 acres, the mansion was even larger at 90,000 square feet when it was transformed in 1928 from a barn by the famed Van Sweringen brothers.

     Owner Sylvia Korey, who has lowered the asking price from $7.5 million to $4.5 million but still sees little prospect of finding a single buyer for the iconic home, is advancing a new concept of converting it into seven condominium units. There is some precedent for such solutions that have preserved other historic estates. Hunting Valley Councilman William J. O'Neill Jr. believes it would be a good fit for the village.

     But it would need approval from the Daisy Hill Homeowners Association, and its five-member board of trustees unanimously rejected it.

     Mr. O'Neill expressed concern that aging Hunting Valley residents do not have a place to downsize within the village that has long been their home and said Ms. Korey's proposal "is really a perfect solution."

     The new townhouses and condos in Pepper Pike "will provide a great alternative" for such residents who wish to remain in their community, Mayor Bain said.

     But what's "a great alternative" in Pepper Pike isn't necessarily "a perfect solution" in Hunting Valley. After all, they are two different communities.

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