December 17, 2015

Million-dollar Babies

By Carolyne Park
– Memphis Business Journal –

A portion of eastern Shelby County, where the flat terrain that characterizes the Memphis area gives way to rolling hills and flowing streams, is quickly becoming a haven for many of the area’s more affluent citizens.

Several subdivisions with homes ranging from $1 million to more than $3 million are being developed in the heavily treed lands along Raleigh LaGrange east of Houston Levee.

“It’s all very high end,” says Bud Hurley, owner of Architectural Construction. “I think it’s going to be the next Chickasaw Gardens.”

But unlike Chickasaw Gardens, the homes are being built on lots that average 4 acres or more. Developers say it’s a trend driven by the land.

Because the land is largely rolling hills, scattered with creeks, lakes and ponds, it doesn’t lend itself to concentrated development, says Jimmy Reed, president of Marx & Bensdorf Realtors. Reed has sold many lots in the area over the last several years.

He says residential growth in the area was first spurred by Notting Hill, a 114-acre subdivision with 27 home sites built about seven years ago. It took only 18 months to sell all of the lots in Notting Hill, and other developments have been moving into the area ever since.

People are attracted to the area’s natural beauty, rural feel and access to nearby schools such as Briarcrest and St. George’s.

Dickens, vice president of special projects with Boyle Investment Co., says many young families have bought property in Boyle’s Wickliffe subdivision. He has also seen older professionals and retirees who want to build a retreat away from the city.

In Wickliffe there are 16 lots, all of which are 3-5 acres along the former bean fields. The subdivision is being designed around the natural surroundings, with no clear-cutting and strict limitations on grading. Only four lots remain unsold in the subdivision, with lot prices ranging from $250,000-$350,000.

Dickens was involved with Notting Hill, and has seen a lot of development in the area, both in the form of subdivisions and individual estates.

“With Memphis growing and Germantown filling up, it’s just the natural progression,” he says.

Keith Novick, president of Sparkle Creek Development, Inc., has lived in the area since 1989. He too, says he has seen a lot of changes as more developers move in and the homes get increasingly upscale. In the time he has been there, he has seen the average home value go from about $500,000 to more than $1 million.

When he originally moved to the area, he bought 300 acres, and soon purchased another 300 acres. He developed the 450-acre Sparkle Creek subdivision with 100 home sites and an 80-acre equestrian center a few years ago. Last year, he began developing The Enclave.

With a total of 166 acres, The Enclave is being done in two phases. The first phase covers 104 acres and includes 33 lots, 26 of which remain available. The second phase will cover 62 acres with 20 lots.

Another development, Mary’s Creek Farms, has a total of 20 lots, with only eight remaining. The first phase of that project, by developers Chip Tayloe and partner Philip McNeil, Sr., includes 26 acres with five lots encompassing more than 4 acres. The second phase of the subdivision has 15 lots, seven of which have been sold.

Like other subdivisions in the area, the design of homes in Mary’s Creek Farms must go through an approval process to ensure that the character and value of the properties are maintained, Tayloe says. Most of the homes are custom built, but one market home in the final phases of construction sets an example with its 10 foot ceilings, five bedrooms, five and a half baths and three-car garage.

Jack Johnson, president of Germantown Home Builders, Inc., is currently developing a 23-lot subdivision on 100 acres he purchased in 1998. Called Falling Creek, the subdivision will feature small waterfalls and water crossings at each of its three entrances, and homes averaging 6,500 – 7,000 square feet. Lot prices in Falling Creek range from $275,000 – $305,000. Home designers here also must be approved by a designated architect, and there are strict limitations on tree cutting.

When he and his wife Deanna first purchased the property, they had no intentions of developing it, Johnson says. They began building their own 8,700 square foot home about 18 months ago. Modeled after the 1700’s Hampton estate in Towson, Md., the house features a 50 foot central cupola, grand entry hall and staircase, five bedrooms and a massive long-cabin style common room and kitchen.

About a year ago, the couple decided they would prefer the security of neighbors within a gated community. They kept 16 acres as their own property, and divided the remaining land into 23 lots.

Johnson says he started getting calls before ever even advertising the property, and has sold all but seven of the lots so far.

Tom Fisher, owner of Tom Fisher Builders, says he is not surprised by the high demand.

“I’ve seen it coming for the last two years,” he says. Not only does the area have a peaceful rural feel, but it also has relatively easy access to amenities, shopping and good schools.

The area is also within the Collierville Reserve, Fisher says, meaning it is set to be annexed by Collierville. It’s a fact of great comfort to homebuyers.

“The world is coming this way,” says Tayloe.