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A Portsmouth homeowner finds big city perks in small town living

Andrea E. McHugh
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Photo by Michael Cevoli

Having lived around the world, Paola Prado is well experienced when it comes to house hunting. So when she began looking across Rhode Island’s East Bay communities for a home that was warm, spacious and affordable, while being a manageable commute to Roger Williams University where she is an Assistant Professor of Communication, she was excited and open minded. The search, however, fell flat. “A lot of places are small and confined,” she says. “I didn’t expect that.”

It wasn’t until she discovered Prescott Point in Portsmouth that she could have everything she was looking for, and then some. Perched on 106 picturesque acres, the secluded community with views of Narragansett Bay offers townhomes in groups of two or three in a warm, well-manicured village setting. “In its price point, nothing matches it,” says Paola. Priced from $349,000 to $404,000, the two-bedroom, two-bath units range from 1,870 to 2,200 square feet of living space. Each home features open floor plans (in three varying layouts) designed for comfortable, single-level living. “I actually chose to buy a model because when I saw it, I knew I wanted it,” laughs Paola.

While the model was just what she was looking for, most Prescott Point buyers are enticed by the ability to customize their home. “We provide the shell and you have the option for flooring, finishes, custom cabinetry, an appliance package – even the color granite you want,” says Chris Bicho, the developer and President of Landings Real Estate Group. “A kitchen designer meets with every buyer so it’s all totally custom.” His vision for the community was to create a coastal enclave that merged luxury living with affordability, and with just three townhomes per acre, the “low density” living gives homeowners room to breathe.

For Paola, who was moving to Rhode Island from Florida, the unit’s ample space was a significant selling point. “I came from a much larger home and I was what they now call ‘rightsizing,’” she explains. Convenience was also crucial. "I realized I really wanted covered parking, so for me, that made the decision for a condo a lot more clear, though I was halfway there anyway. I have a large, two-car garage and it’s private.” Another bonus was evident in last month’s colossal blizzard that dumped two feet of snow across Portsmouth and much of the state. “First thing in the morning, my driveway was clear. That to me was priceless,” she adds.

The community’s location, practically in the dead center of Aquidneck Island, is also advantageous for Paola. “My commute is delightful because it’s just 12 minutes to work,” she says. “I prefer to live close to work because we are all very busy and have to accommodate so much in our schedule that I feel the time in our cars commuting can be better spent.” Paola also says that leaving a small carbon footprint is something that is important to her, and the quick commute is guilt-free.

When not heading to Bristol to teach courses in journalism, media law, digital media production and mass communication theory at Roger Williams, she typically heads south to play in nearby Newport. The City-by-the-Sea’s diverse restaurants, unique shops and ample entertainment, she says, are all so close to home. “Newport in the summer is so vibrant,” she adds. “It’s a great alternative for people who don’t need big city life any more. Bicho say that many Prescott Point residents are connected to Newport whether it is for their careers or for pleasure, so being just five miles from downtown is an attractive perk. “The physical location (of Prescott Point) is far superior,” to other communities, like those in the northernmost sector of Portsmouth, explains Bicho.

When looking for those big city moments though, Paola says her location affords her ample opportunity. It’s not uncommon for the Brazil native to bop up to Boston for dinner or jump in the car for the quick drive to the train station in Kingston and be on her way to New York City for a weekend escape.

When not in the concrete jungle, Paola takes refuge in nature, whic is right outside her door. “I love nature. My unit looks out on a preserved wetland, so I have the assurance nothing will be constructed,” she says. “There is so much wildlife! For someone who has lived in big cities for a long time, this is phenomenal.” While she says she looks back fondly on her years spent in Paris and Washington, D.C., walking the miles of nature trails that span 58 acres at Prescott Point, often with her dog in tow, offers sweet serenity. “I’ll look and there’s deer just sauntering through the prairie at dusk or dawn and hawks will perch on our porches,” she gushes. On a recent walk with a friend and their dogs, her friend joked that Paola was living in the backdrop of the movie, Snow White. “You walk out there and the birds are chirping and the bunnies are hopping… but it’s reality,” she says with a laugh. “I walk up and open the curtains on my French windows and the grounds are littered with bunnies!” Bicho adds that as additional building phases are completed in the community, the trails will link together offering even more scenic treks.

While all the amenities please Paola immensely, and the contemporary but inviting design scheme punctuated by artwork and treasures from her global travels can be found throughout her house have fashioned a unique, chic style, it’s her neighbors, she says, that have really made Prescott Point feel like home. “The people make the place,” she says. “It’s delightful. In just two years in Rhode Island, I have many more and much closer friends than I did in 15 years in Florida. People here are warm, community-minded and seek each other out for company.” In just one example of their regular gatherings, neighbors gather for frequent “yappy hours,” for some spirited human and canine interaction.

“There’s also a deep sense of history here,” says Paola, referring to the neighborhood’s namesake, British General Richard Prescott, who was captured by Colonel William Barton of the Rhode Island militia near the site in 1777. “It’s an important piece of American history that happened right here, so you have that sense of tradition with getting to live in nature. There’s something about that mix that, having lived all over the world, that is unique. You don’t find it everywhere.”