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New Development In Oakley

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3/19/2007 - New Development In Oakley
by Asheville Citizen Times

"ASHEVILLE A group of developers and planners is putting together plans for what would be one of the citys largest new housing developments in recent years along Fairview Road in Oakley.

But instead of the mountainside sites that are drawing so much interest from developers in the region and retirees moving to the area the development would be located in an urban setting on 30 acres thats now either graded and empty or occupied by two buildings, one industrial and one retail.

If plans are fully realized, the development with a working title of Whitaker Hill would have a little more than 500 housing units around a small village center with space for neighborhood-scale retailers and some office space.

City officials are scheduled to discuss the plans today during a meeting of the Technical Review Committee, which one developer said wont vote on the project until the committee receives more information. Plans would eventually require approval by City Council.

The project would be built according to New Urbanist design principles that emphasize compact communities that are easy for pedestrians to get around and offering a variety of types of housing at different price points.

The way designer Seth Harry describes it harkens back to an earlier time.

For residents of Whitaker Hill, Your kids will know their neighbors. Theyll be able to walk down to the local corner store, he said.

Whitaker Hill, he said, seeks to re-create many of the attributes of pre-World War II communities.

Were not delivering something new. What were really doing is creating one of the great walkable neighborhoods that we used to crate in this country, he said.

The project might be Oakleys Main Street, said Alan Glines, a city planner involved in reviewing the project.

Whitaker Hill will include apartments, many in duplexes and similar structures; some condominiums or town houses; and some single-family homes in a variety of sizes, Harry said. Many will be affordable for working people. Prices could start in the $160,000 to $180,000 range, he said.

The intention is to be as diverse as possible relative to the market for housing in the Asheville area, he said. Were not going after a niche market. Were not going for the visitor market.

Plans are still in flux, Harry said, partly because developers are continuing to negotiate with property owners. Construction could begin as early as this year but probably wont start until 2008, he said. Development would be done in phases.

A number of mixed-use projects proposed in the city in recent years have yet to be built. But Harry said there is a strong desire for housing that is not built along suburban models.

In other communities, Once one is built and people see how appealing the concept is, the market responds to it. Then, often, very quickly numerous examples pop up.

Harry, whose Seth Harry & Associates is based in Woodbine, Md., is working with local company GPS Development on the project along with local architect Daryl Rantis."

Mark Barnett, March 19, 2007, Asheville Citizen TImes

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