Some people call Robert C. Powell a visionary, a developer who designed a master-planned community that has not lacked in appeal nor lost its value over the years.Powell is the person responsible for Gold River, an upscale community of 2,736 homes and condominiums that’s accessible via Highway 50 and Sunrise Boulevard.Gold River consists of 25 villages with a varying number of residences in each — from as few as six homes in Empire Oaks Village to 226 homes in Mother Lode.Each gated village is named for a historical person, place or event.Bret Harte Village, for example, is named for one of California’s most prominent writers of the 1860s. Gold Spike Village commemorates the building of the first transcontinental railroad.The Maidu-Hesperian Village was named for the Maidu and Miwok peoples living in the Mother Lode and adjacent valley before 1848. “Hesperian" is from the Greek word for evening star and has been used to describe residents of western lands such as California.Marshall Village relates to the discovery of gold by James Marshall, and Settlement Village honors John A. Sutter, who founded the settlement that became Sacramento.Details about Gold River’s village names are listed on the Gold River Community Association website, which notes that most of the villages were developed by Robert C. Powell Development Co. and a few by Coker Ewing, Park Place Partners and Greystone Homes.Bob Cassano, who was vice president of Powell Development, said Powell built approximately 2,000 of the homes.“Robert Powell designed such a wonderful area,” said Donald Stitt, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker. “He put the interests of the environment and people who would live there ahead of a developer’s interests. He preserved the valley oak trees and the river rock and tailings left from gold mining.”Powell controlled every facet to keep Gold River looking nice, Stitt said.“That’s why people love it so much out here,” he said.Many Gold River residents have had more than one home in the area over the course of their lives, moving into larger residences to accommodate growing families or downsizing to smaller homes later on.“They love Gold River and want to stay in the area,” said Stitt, who has sold real estate for 10 years. “I can’t think of any other community in Northern California that’s as special.”Gold River has strict land-use covenants and architectural controls, Stitt said, which are a plus for those who appreciate the trade-off — a community that looks neat and clean.Gold River’s one- and two-story homes are similar in architectural style and exterior color. Guest parking is permitted only on one side of the extra-wide streets, and homeowners may not park their automobiles, boats or recreational vehicles in driveways. Landscaping is planted and maintained by the community’s homeowners association.“If a tree should fall, it will be replaced,” Stitt said. “If you’re on vacation, you know your place will be taken care of.”The community standards may not appeal to individualists, Stitt said.“People who want a lot of expression would have difficulty in Gold River,” he said. “There’s a similarity to the homes, but that keeps the property values up. Retaining the architectural style has a direct financial benefit."In the past six months, 79 Gold River properties have sold for an average price of $267,000. The lowest selling price, $43,000, was for a multifamily unit with two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. The highest selling price for a single-family home was $725,000.Residents benefit from amenities in the area. They can play racquetball or tennis, swim or relax in the spa at the Gold River Racquet Club or walk, run or ride bicycles along the 5 miles of nature trails in the area.They also have convenient access to the American River Bicycle Trail that leads east to Folsom Lake and west to Sacramento.The Gold River Villagers is a social organization of homeowners who gather for monthly luncheons and special events. Activities include a book chat, tai chi, bridge, bunco and other games.Students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend Discovery Center Elementary School. Those in grades 9 through 12 attend Rio Americano High School.Residents can shop at the Gold River Town Centre on Sunrise Boulevard, which has a Bel Air Market, several restaurants, a bank, a Starbucks coffeehouse and basic services.Like most other area communities, Gold River was originally part of a Mexican land grant in the early 1800s and the Gold Rush in the 1850s. In 1851 it was purchased by the privately owned Natoma Water and Mining Co.Before development, the area contained several auto-wrecking yards, said Mike Childress, general manager of the Gold River Community Association, who remembers hunting for car parts at the yards.Gold River has never been part of Rancho Cordova, as some people believe, Childress said.In the late 1970s, Natomas Real Estate Co. began work on preliminary plans for the property, which was then known as Natoma Station, according to the community website. In 1980, the area was named Gold River.It was one of the first planned communities at that time, Cassano said.“We were able to get a contract post office with limited services based on the size of the community and its geographical identity,” he said. “The post office let us name it Gold River.”That was finalized in February 1983, he said, and was done more from a marketing perspective.According to the community association website, the goals were to develop a community that would be a desirable place for people to live and where the property values would be protected.Vision accomplished.
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