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It’s been 30 years since Rex B. Vick moved to the Triangle, but the Hunt High School graduate is returning home to build Wilson’s largest housing development since the Great Recession.
“I have always wanted to come back to my hometown to do a project, but I wanted it to be the right idea at the right time, so that it adds value to the Wilson residential home market,” Vick said. “I think the market conditions are perfect and the site is well suited for my plans. I am looking forward to coming back to Wilson for this great opportunity.”
Vick, owner of Windjam Properties, used his upbringing to put together the 1158 Place development near the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Raleigh Road Parkway. The construction of roughly 250 single-family homes and townhomes received approval earlier this month from Wilson’s planning board and the project is set for the Wilson City Council’s 7 p.m. Thursday meeting.
“The timeline for approvals is largely driven by the planning staff and the local boards. While we expect the rezoning to go smoothly, the site plan stage and our design phase will take a bit longer,” said Jennifer D. Scott, general counsel for The Windjam Companies. “We expect to thoroughly address staff comments to our plans to help insure a smooth process. Meanwhile, we will be putting the build team together, so that construction can begin as soon as lots are approved and infrastructure is in.”
FULFILLING A NEED
More than a year ago, Windjam staff started looking at the site and in the last six months, work on 1158 Place has kicked into high gear.
“We liked the west side for its proximity to the corporate park, schools, shopping and highways,” Vick said. “We believe the growth makes the most sense in this area. We like projects where everything a homeowner needs to live, work and play is nearby and accessible.”
In fact, the residential development is slated for land in a crescent from behind the car dealerships on Raleigh Road Parkway toward Airport Boulevard with commercial development nearest to the intersection. Scott said the residential and commercial development will work together to improve the area.
“Rex is planning the residential community, so that it has some walkability and easy connectivity to amenities that support the residents’ access to the variety of nearby options for dining, shopping and activities,” Scott said.
A timeline for construction has not been announced, but once it is complete, there will be roughly 100 houses and 154 townhomes. Vick said the goal is to keep new home prices at or below $300,000, but he noted the specifics still are in the development stage.
“Our review of the data and surrounding markets tells us that we can fill a void for folks looking for new construction options and either the ability to live and work in Wilson or commute out to work,” he said. “We have been doing some building on scattered lots in the area in the last few years and our work product is well received.
“With what we perceive as a good potential for demand that is only going to increase in the coming years, we think our timing is right.”
Vick has been involved in a variety of large-scale developments from Pinehurst to Sims, but he is eager to bring his skills to a development near where he grew up.
“I am looking forward to the progression of this project in Wilson and it will be a pleasure to come home,” he said.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
In addition to 1158 Place, Ron Sutton with Herring Sutton & Associates is working on a handful of other projects that are in the regulatory phase of development. Sutton also is working on three projects that are under construction — Cranberry Ridge and Eagle Farm in Wilson and The Retreat at 35˚ 78˚ in Sims — but the size and prime location of 1158 Place makes it unique.
“This is the first big project since the recession,” Sutton said. “We’ve been taking projects with preliminary plan approval and building out sections, but this is the first truly new project that is not a continuation of an existing project.”
Scott said the townhomes at 1158 Place will likely be constructed first with the homes on 51-foot lots coming afterwards. And while the size of each unit and the community amenities haven’t been determined, Sutton said he’s seen the largest demand being 1,200- to 1,700-square-foot three-bedroom, two bathroom homes.
“The trend we’ve seen from the design and engineering standpoint is that they are going to smaller lots and smaller houses because the homes much larger than that are ending up being sold at great discounts,” he said. “Part of the reason of that too is there is about a 25 to 30 percent increase in lot costs compared to before the recession.”
Johnson Bissette, owner of First Wilson Properties and president of Bissette Realty, said the demand for homes in Wilson is great.
“Our inventory is very low across the board, which can be a good thing because sellers may be getting some of the value back that they lost in the recession,” Bissette said. “We think that if you have a nice, clean and showable house that is priced right, you should have buyers for it.”
The Village is completely built, but selling the development across from the Wilson County Club on N.C. 58 was Bissette’s responsibility.
“Most developments are done in stages anyway, so it wasn’t finished at one time and the houses in The Village were at a price point that was good for Wilson,” he said. “In my opinion, it was sort of recession-proof because of that.”
The added amenities like a community pool and lawn maintenance for some of the homes along with a range of home sizes made it a popular development for a variety of demographics, Bissette said.
“The key to success with The Village was different price points and different products for different people,” he said. “If you can meet the needs for a lot of people with some of this and some of that, you can make it work.”
For homebuyers interested in Wilson’s new developments, Sutton and Bissette agree that energy efficiency, updated floor plans and amenities are priorities.
“No. 1 is price and everyone wants a new home with the warranties and new materials, but you can buy existing homes and do some upgrades and be just as good,” Bissette said. “More than likely, you can get an older home for less money, but you have more work to do with them. You do get a good value with houses in Wilson.”
Prior to the recession, Bissette said commuters accounted for some of the boom of popularity near the Buckhorn Reservoir.
“All that was really taking off because of people living there and working in Raleigh, but the recession slowed that down,” he said. “As Raleigh grows, more and more and more people want to commute, so living somewhere in northwest or west Wilson is where these developments are going to spring up.”
And Wilson is very attractive for Triangle employees.
“As the Triangle continues its outward expansion, we feel the market will have to push east out of Raleigh to Wilson and that stretch between will begin to close,” Scott said. “Since many of the markets we work in do not have the water and sewer capacity to support needed growth, Wilson is well positioned to get some prime projects.
“The Greenlight fiber optic network is also a huge advantage for Wilson.”