It's like a play, really. With architects outlining each home's scripts, builders directing the construction process, designers making sure the presentation is aesthetically pleasing and thousands of people to impress and to leave them wanting more.

The Street of Dreams is a production and one not to be missed. The summer showcase evolves each year with a new location, new cast and new story to tell.

'The more people see it, the more people talk about it. We've had a lot of repeat builders. There's a certain cult following for certain individual builders,' said Ernie Platt, director of local government affairs with the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland and who has attended every show since it's opening in 1976.

But the street lined with viewable homes isn't like any conventional neighborhood.

Building a home to showcase in the Street of Dreams is a whirlwind process. The land is assembled by the Lake Oswego-based Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland (HBA). Builders must decide by late summer if they are interested in building a home for the following year's showcase; they break ground anywhere between November to January and must have their homes completed by the third week in July, according to the HBA.

Cue the crowds; thousands of them. The homes must be built with mobility and traction in mind; 30,000 people came the first year of the tour and more than 80,000 visited in 2006, according to Brad Wurfel, director of comunications and community relations with the HBA.

Several times the popular showcase was in our own backyard - Tabaridge and Atherton Heights in Lake Oswego and Sunburst II in West Linn. The Marylhurst Street of Dreams is just across the street from the University.

And although some styles and technology have changed throughout the decades, most of the houses' appearances remain the same years after the tour and that's because, 'good design shows no age,' said Platt.

The test of time

Beginning in 1976 in Rock Creek, the Street of Dreams started a phenomenon. It gave builders a platform to display their craft, handymen and designers a blank canvas to add color and visitors a venue to preview the latest trends, ideas and conversation pieces.

The showcase proved what could happen when dreams are combined with modern approaches and materials.

'We are the first Street of Dreams show here in the country. I don't think people realize that. It's gotten better and better over the years,' said Ray Derby, president of Blazer Development located in Lake Oswego.

The 1980 tour in Tabaridge - located near Carman Drive and Kruse Way in Lake Oswego - had house prices ranging from $225,000 to $350,000 and introduced the 'Homer' statue, said Platt.

Sculpted by Ms. Sparkle Fuller Anderson, the figurine of a man building a home has been awarded to the builder whose home captures the public's best of show vote each year. Past 'Homer' winners proudly display their replica statues at their offices. Some builders have earned a collection of 'Homers,' not unlike Meryl Streep with her Academy Awards and Quincy Jones with his Grammys.

'The (actual) sculpture is passed from year to year,' Platt said. 'There was an all-solar home in that (tour). We're still talking about what constitutes as green and environmentally sustainable today. Interestingly enough, that solar home was the most expensive home on the block.'

Dick Edwards, chairman of that year's show, was interviewed before the 1980 tour and said, 'the homes represented here are to show the advancements in the housing industry, and to display the abilities of some of this area's finest craftsmen and decorators,' according to the official program.

Decades later, the same goals hold true. The Street of Dreams is a place to learn, a place to grow and a place to explore.

The Sunburst II development in West Linn in 1983 showcased sitting areas within master suites, oriental decorating, bold touches of color, recreation rooms, casual kitchens, an octagonal dining room and a 'generous use of wallpaper,' as mentioned in the description of The Morning Star home. The 14 homes on tour ranged from $215,000 to $410,000.

Atherton Heights - located off the Stafford Road roundabout near Cooks Butte Park and Lakeridge High School - demonstrated a variety of house styles - cottage, stone castle, European, Cape Cod, Craftsman and French. The houses in the neighborhood blend well next to each other and overlooking views of the Stafford area.

As the tour continued, the number of houses within the Street of Dreams developments decreased but the price tags increased. The prices of the six homes within the 2006 Street of Dreams ranged from $2.4 million to $3.7 million.

'That's just inflation and the times. I don't think that anything the Street of Dreams is doing is different than (back then),' Platt said. 'It's all relative.'

Keeping up with the Jones'

The 2007 Street of Dreams is located in the Oregon City/Beavercreek area, off Marklund Place in Clackamas County - a flat neighborhood with homes built into the side of hill overlooking views of Mount Hood and a rural landscape.

The home built by Blazer Development includes an energy efficient heating and cooling system, monitored indoor air quality and other sustainable elements and practices, according to the HBA.

Named 'Cottage in the Trees,' the stucco home with country shutters Blazer Development built was designed for empty nesters that enjoy having company over. Derby, president of Blazer Development with Rick Lesniak, chose a quality over quantity approach this year with the company's 4,300-square-foot, single-level French country home.

'We purposely downsized to show that you can build a smaller home and still have a home that's fun to entertain in,' Derby said.

The other homes range between 5,274 square feet and 6,321 square feet.

'People that do have the means to buy larger homes would be comfortable (in this home) too,' Derby said. 'We've had a lot of discussion with past clients and they'd prefer to be more intimate and have a home a little tighter around them.'

This year, each builder in conjunction with the Remodelers Council constructed a doghouse which was auctioned to raise funds for DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, a local non-profit center that provides 24-hour emergency care for pets.

Yes, even dogs can dream.

The annual 'Midsummer's Night Dream' charity event that opens the show each year has raised millions of dollars for numerous local charities. The HBA is a large contributer to local economy, and it's contributions are the back bone for many local organizations.

From its beginnings decades ago, the tour remains innovative, original and fresh each year - just like the attendees taking notes for their dream wishes. One attendee at this years' show was touring the homes with her daughter and granddaughter - three generations soaking up the sun and the sights of the Street of Dreams.

'I attribute the success (of the showcase) to the variety of builders,' Derby said, 'because we each bring a new nuance or twist to how to do something and the public ends up being able to see a lot of variety.'

For more information about the Street of Dreams, visit http://www.streetofdream or contact the HBA at http://www.home

The tour runs through August 26.

Builders this year includes: Blazer Development, West One Homes, Accent Residential Homes, Lakeside Custom Homes, Taurus Homes and KDC Construction.

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