Neighbors and nature: New Cape Girardeau housing development will focus on community and the outdoors

Thursday, June 26, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Walden Park is nearly ready for its first residents.

Gerry Jones hopes to bring Mayberry to Cape Girardeau with a subdivision under construction off Route W.

Jones remembers a time in America when neighbors would sit on their front porches and call people by their first names as they passed by, like on "The Andy Griffith Show."

Jones said that during the past 10 years such neighborhoods have made a comeback. And Jones, managing member of RiverWest Partners, which is responsible for the development, believes the concept will work with the Walden Park subdivision.

The concept of Walden Park is to focus a community on common areas such as small lakes, playgrounds, a swimming pool and a clubhouse instead of cul-de-sacs and streets. The seven- to-10-year $50 million project will include townhomes and houses.

"This is a true master-planned community," Jones said. "When this project is completed we believe that it will be the most unique and sought-after neighborhood in the area."

Jones said the neighborhood is not for everyone.

"In today's society, most people get home from work and immediately drive into their garage and spend the rest of the evening inside," Jones said. "To me, that's odd. If you are into that, that's fine, but Walden Park is not for you.

"But if you want to get to know your neighbors well, then you may enjoy living in this development," he said. "This community will be the type where families are living near each other and friends are folks you will see and interact with most evenings."

Dallas-based Humphreys and Partners developed the traditional neighborhood design land plan and provided the architectural services for the townhomes. The company has about 250 similar developments across the country, such as the Oaks at Greystone in Birmingham, Ala., Dennery Ranch in San Diego and the Preserve in Indigo, S.C.

"It's a very good and appealing transitional design for people who are wanting to get to know their neighbors in a unique community model," said Kelly Osburn, principal architect for the firm. "The uniqueness is everyone has their own private garage, which connects right to the foyer and that the entry into the homes is very secure. In this day, security is such a big issue, especially for females."

The first phase of rental units, the Townhomes of Walden Park Village, is expected to be complete by early July. Jones said four of the units have been rented. The units will rent for $800 to $1,000 per month.

Each townhome building will have 10 units, ranging from 932 to 1,337 square feet. The units will have a garage with room for at least one car and a front door facing the street.

An open house for interested renters is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

While the townhomes are nearing completion, construction has begun on one of the Homes of Walden Park. Seven single-family homes are expected to be available by fall.

Homeowners will be able to choose from two single-level plans and one two-story plan.

An interior designer will assist homeowners with selection of flooring, cabinetry and fixtures. Each home ranges between 1,500 and 2,220 square feet and will cost from $125,000 to more than $500,000.

Unlike the townhomes, the houses will have garages at the rear rather than facing the street.

Eventually 10 custom home lots will be offered for people wanting to build a home using a plan that deviates from the proposed house plans.

The centerpiece of the community will be the $700,000 clubhouse, a 4,000-square-foot facility with an L-shaped swimming pool for adults, a children's pool, a fitness center, a community meeting room, a coffee bar and an Internet cafe with Wi-Fi access.

In addition to the clubhouse, Walden Park has ample amounts of green space, and its neighbors are the Conservation Campus Nature Center and Cape County Park North. Plans are for the Cape LaCroix Trail -- a 4.42-mile trail that begins at Shawnee Park and ends at Route W near Osage Park -- to pass through the neighborhood in the near future. RiverWest Partners will be responsible for the construction of the trail through Walden Park, and the city will be responsible for widening of the trail and its maintenance.

"We are maximizing our green space," Jones said. "Where else could you be among your neighbors and be just a few minutes walk from a large nature space? At Walden Park, we're allowing our residents to be in tune with nature."

Jones said the parks, walking trails and ponds will not be limited to residents of Walden Park. He emphasized that all Cape Girardeau residents are welcome to use the neighborhood's green space.

Planned events include a children's day at the park, carnivals, family movie nights and July 4 celebrations.

"Contrary to rumors around town, we are not going to be a gated community," Jones said. "If anything, we will be an open community for all to enjoy. And that's an important part here -- creating that sense of community."

Though the nation is experiencing a downturn in the housing market, Curt Poore, managing member of RiverWest Properties, said the Walden Park development has been relatively unaffected.

"The economy here hasn't followed the national trend," Poore said. "We feel that we have something unique to offer that people here are willing to invest their money in. At our price point, the type of buyers we attract won't be as hesitant about purchasing a home."

Mike Deimund, managing member of RiverWest Partners, added that while banks nationwide are tightening their lending policies, the same situation has not occurred for his company.

"Our project was one that banks were interested in," Deimund said. "Plus, our relationship with our banks was so good that it was easier to get a loan. Overall, we haven't been as affected by the economy as a lot of national businesses."

With the exception of Humphreys and Partners, the project is being handled by local companies. About 100 people within a 50-mile radius of Cape Girardeau are working each day at the construction site.

"With a project so enormous, we felt it was important to use area businesses that could benefit their companies and the economy here in Cape Girardeau," Jones said.

bblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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