A Beautiful Combination

Johnston’s new Bella Strada Estates offers a unique living environment.

At the edge of Johnston, a piece of Italy is emerging from the landscape.

Bella Strada Estates, the one-of-a-kind development from Craig and Myra Lynn Hansen, is a combination of the best of European and American designs. In fact, Bella Strada is a beautiful combination of many elements.

A Combination of Classic and Contemporary

The Hansens have owned several acres in Johnston for a number of years on which they plan to build their own dream home.

“We bought 4.5 acres a number of years ago,” explains Craig. “We were looking at building a European, quaint, village-style home. When the neighboring land came up for sale, we decided to develop it ourselves so the surrounding community would reflect that same feel and go with what we wanted to do.”

Myra adds, “Our kids went to school here. We’ve lived in Johnston our whole life. This area really feels like home.”

So the couple began dreaming about what their ideal neighborhood would look like.

“There’s nothing like this here,” Myra says. “We wanted to offer something you couldn’t find anywhere else, and we knew it would have a limited audience. But that’s OK.”

The 19-acre development includes 11 executive lots, each 1 or more acres, and 8 villas, along with a piazza, a fountain, and a gated entrance with guard house that sets the tone to the community.

The executive lots are available for custom homes and open to all builders, although the community has some limited covenants to ensure that all the homes maintain elements of the classic style. “We don’t limit the architectural style of the executive homes,” Myra says. “Our first homeowner is building a Cape Cod. But we want each home to have some consistent features, like stone facades and no front-facing garages.”

Combination of both Community and Safety features

One of the most unique aspects of Bella Strada is its gated layout. “There are only one or two other gated communities in central Iowa,” says Myra. “But Bella Strada is the only one that offers both the security of a gated community and that neighborhood feel that we all long for.”

Although some gated developments provide a full-time guard and gatehouse, Bella Strada takes that further to provide residents with both safety and comfort.

“There’s no actual guard on duty, but our guard house is not just a guard house,” Myra explains. “It’s also a meeting place—children can wait for the bus there in the morning or be dropped off there to wait until their parents come meet them. It provides a place for them to wait inside away from the elements. It’s a unique feature, and no one else offers anything like that.”

The couple spent two years planning, discussing their vision for the development. “We wanted a real community feel, where people could interact with their neighbors,” says Craig. “We want a community that will last here. We’ll know in 10 or 20 years whether we’ve accomplished that.”

To encourage that, the couple included a piazza with covered pavilion, which includes seating and grills, where families can gather and visit and cook.

“We debated a long time about how to use the community space,” says Myra. “We talked about putting in a pool. But that can only be used a few months out of the year in Iowa. We talked about a playground. But that only appeals to families with young children. The piazza, with the lawn and the pavilion, can be used by everyone. It’s wonderful for community activities; you can host weddings there and family gatherings. No matter what stage of life our families are, they can benefit from this.”

Combination of Structure and Style

In addition to the custom executive lots, Bella Strada will offer eight villas that surround the central courtyard. “The villas have already been drawn,” Craig explains. “But only as far as the general floor plan. We wanted to make sure each home was ideally suited to its location and that windows from one home didn’t look directly onto another home, things like that.”

However, the homeowners can make some modifications and can customize the home’s finish to suit their taste and lifestyle.

The model home, which had its grand opening in October, is a lovely 3,900-square-foot, 1½-story that would be just as appropriate on the Italian countryside with stucco and stone exterior and red tile roof. Inside, arched doorways, reclaimed-wood floors, and stone pillars are reminiscent of classic architectural design. But even the classic elements have been applied with the latest technology, including the structural design that allows zero-entry floor plans, the contemporary interpretation of classic cabinetry and decor, and the modern electronic systems today’s homeowners expect.

“Every villa will have a courtyard,” Craig adds. “And all are zero-entry because of the structural design of the foundation and the trusses. That’s a very unique feature for executive-level homes.”

One of the reasons the homes offer that rare blend of structure and style is because the Hansens themselves are that rare balance of gifts. “I’m the structural, spatial guy,” Craig laughs. “Myra’s the design person. We’ll debate back and forth and each give our opinion. But she values my background, and I value hers. And I’m color-blind, so I have no business doing the interiors anyway.”

Asked if this long-term project had been a challenge for them as a couple, both Craig and Myra smiled. “Working together isn’t new for us,” Myra explains. “But this is a labor of love. The properties are high-end and high-value, we know, but that’s because of all that’s gone into developing and creating this community. It’s been a passion for us and an investment in the future of the community. This is the environment where we want to live. That’s why we’re doing it.”

As Craig says, time will tell whether they’ve put together the right combination to achieve that. But, for the Hansens, the project has been both work and pleasure.

“This is our passion,” says Craig. “We absolutely love what we do.”