By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One real estate project in western Albemarle County is seeing significant residential sales growth. Old Trail Village reported this week that 70 homes were sold or placed under contract during 2010, a record number for the mixed-use development near Crozet.

“We had the best selling year that we have ever had,” said Andrea McNeill, director of marketing for Beights Corp. “I think in large part that’s due to the housing product that our builders are providing, and it’s obviously what consumers want.”

Old Trail’s success comes in the midst of a housing market that last year saw regional sales drop 1.5 percent below their 2009 levels, the fourth straight year of decline.

The 70 homes that sold in 2010 surpasses the total of 27 sold in 2009 and 21 in 2008. McNeill said 58 of the homes were new construction and 12 were re-sales.

In addition, the first phase of Old Trail’s mixed-use commercial town center is virtually all leased.

There are almost 300 occupied homes in Old Trail today and the development has been approved to build another 2,300, for about 2,600 homes in total.

Gaylon Beights, president of Beights Corp., attributed part of the recent success to the maturing of the neighborhood.

“I think Old Trail has matured, the amenities are present, and the architecture is established,” Beights said.

When Albemarle County approved the development in 2005, many area residents decried it as being too large, a threat to existing businesses in downtown Crozet, and a population bomb that would undermine the 2004 Crozet Master Plan. That plan has now been revised with a great deal of community input to adjust, in part, for the housing density that ended up in Old Trail.

Jim Duncan, a Realtor in Crozet at Nest Realty, said Beights had responded well to market demand.

“I think they are doing something right and that they have created something that people want,” Duncan said. “When I talk about it with clients I say, ‘It has stuff — a pool, shopping areas, things to walk to.’ People want to have an engaged community.”

“Success breeds success,” he added. “Old Trail has succeeded faster than other developments like Belvedere because they had the commercial areas ready to go. People view this as the beginning of a successful community.”

According to Beights, there are 39 apartments above the first floor commercial area in the existing town center, all of which were occupied throughout last year. Recently five apartments became available, but he said that was because those residents moved into other homes within Old Trail.

Melissa Riley lives in one of the apartments and works in the town center.

“This is a close-knit community and you feel safe,” Riley said in an interview at Face Value Studios. “I’m a single mom and I plan to start by renting a townhome and then move on up in the neighborhood. Who wouldn’t want to wake up every morning and see those mountains?”

Eating lunch at Anna’s Pizza in the town center, Jason and Adrienne Augustino said they had relocated from Baltimore and were initially attracted by the surrounding countryside.

“We just liked the area, the farmland,” Jason said. “It sounded like a nice area that would have restaurants and a walkable community. Everything that we like and want and need is here.”

McNeill said phase 9 of Old Trail is under construction across from the town center. The Village Commons will include another 126 homes.

“Also, the Lodge at Old Trail will have 126 beds in a new senior assisted living facility,” McNeill added. “It’s on the rental model and that has a range of care from basic assisted living up to end-of-life care.”

Both Riley and the Augustinos said they were excited about the next phase of development for Old Trail Village.

“From an investment perspective, it will really help,” Adrienne said. “We enjoy being able to walk to restaurants and we are excited about the neighborhood’s growth.”

The investment is paying off for Beights, too, who led his business through a difficult market.

“The biggest surprise was 2008-2009 when we faced a market like I have never could have imagined in 40 years of development,” Beights said. “Maneuvering a project this massive through the uncertainty of those years, I knew we’d be here, but I didn’t know if my bank was here for the long haul. It’s refreshing to be on this side of 2010 being able to say sales are continuing.”


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