Ross Bridge: Retail chases rooftops 05/12/2006
Signature Homes senior vice president Barry DeLozier stands on the future site of the $3 million headquarters. View Larger Signature Homes' groundbreaking this week on its new $3 million headquarters represents a milestone for the commercial component of Ross Bridge - the huge development tied to the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa.
The residential arm of the development has been surging for months. About 100 families are living in the Hoover community now.
Naturally, those residents want nearby sources of basic goods and services, such as dry cleaning and child care, restaurants and grocery stores, coffee shops and beauty salons.
All that is coming, says Daniel Corp., which joined with the Retirement Systems of Alabama to develop Ross Bridge. Along with the world-class golf course and hotel, the expansive area includes neighborhoods, a town center with space for commercial development, and outlying retail.
RSA's resort opened in summer 2005, and the neighborhoods' first residents moved in this past fall.
"A few years ago, when we started on this project, interest (in commercial development) was slow," says Charles Carlisle, a senior vice president with Daniel Corp.
But, because the houses have been so well received, Daniel is moving "much more rapidly than expected" to attract the businesses needed to serve the new residents.
So far, representatives of businesses such as coffee shops, sandwich shops, bakeries and bank branches have spoken with Daniel about locating in Ross Bridge.
Office space there is attracting more interest now, too. A Birmingham architectural firm is seriously considering locating there, although Daniel Corp. managers declined to identify the firm.
Room for walking At 15,000 square feet, Signature Homes' Dungan-Nequette-designed office building, which will take shape adjacent to the development's sales and welcome center, more than triples the square footage the builder has at its existing headquarters in Pelham. And completion of the Signature Homes office is expected to spark further development. There is plenty of room for it, Carlisle says.In the town center, where Signature Homes and the welcome center are located, about 186,000 square feet of multistory, mixed-use space will be available. Taken together, Ross Bridge will have about 1.3 million square feet for office and retail development, Carlisle says. Commercial development will encompass more than 115 acres.
In the town center, 60,000 square feet of commercial space is on the ground floor, so it will likely be used mostly for offices.
Exactly how the proportions of residential, office and retail components of the development will play out remains uncertain, says Carlisle.
Designed by Memphis architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss and Birmingham land-planning firm Holcombe Norton & Pritchett Inc., the town center follows New Urbanist principles that stress walkability and the prominence of residential over retail.
"We're going to have the very best of the New Urbanist elements without being so beholden to that that we are unable to respond to the market of what people really want," Carlisle says. "So the market will dictate how much of each we have."
The town center is being graded now, says Holcombe Norton & Pritchett president Tommy Holcombe, and he expects buildings to start coming out of the ground late this summer.
Rather than the pastels of Seaside, Fla. (a New Urbanist beachside landmark designed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.), the town center at Ross Bridge will incorporate brick and earth tones that echo the older sections of Mountain Brook and Birmingham.
Alleys will have parking in the rear, meaning no garages will be visible from the street.
Looney Ricks Kiss also designed planned communities Celebration and Baldwin Park, both in Florida.
Although shopping areas of Hoover are relatively close, current residents of Ross Bridge may be wondering when they will get a grocery store in their neighborhood.
Grocers typically require a certain number of rooftops, such as 1,000, within a one- or two-mile radius, before they will consider opening a new store. But a lot of other factors can come into play as well.
Some retailers, such as Whole Foods, do extensive studies that include in-depth demographic profiles.
Regardless of which grocer lands at Ross Bridge, residents can rest assured that one eventually will, says Carlisle. In fact, Daniel is reserving a 20-acre site along Ross Bridge Parkway that it feels would be ideal for a grocery-anchored development.
"It will be a few more rooftops before that happens," Carlisle says.
In the meantime, Signature Homes senior vice president Barry DeLozier says the company hopes to be in its new headquarters before year's end, putting Signature's sales force in a better spot from which to put residents under those new rooftops quickly and easily.
The company's office, which resembles a European-style house, showcases the Signature style. But, "If people want to see examples of things we've actually built," DeLozier says, "it's literally out our back door."
Signature recently committed to building at least 200 houses in addition to the 100 called for in the initial phase.
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