Developers Cross Ross Bridge Goals Faster Than Exp 12/21/2005
Publication: Birmingham News
Author: Dawn Kent
Tempie Brunson knows a hot real estate market when she sees it.
She recently sold her home of 29 years in Homewood's Hollywood neighborhood, less than a day after she put it on the market. Then she bought in Hoover's new Ross Bridge community, where brisk demand for home sites has accelerated the development plan.
Brunson made the move because she knew she could make a profit on her Hollywood house, and she likes what Ross Bridge has to offer. Her new house is about the same size as her old one, and she doesn't have to worry about upkeep on an aging structure.
Empty-nesters like Brunson are among the people now living in the developing neighborhoods of Ross Bridge, a 1,600-acre area west of Shades Mountain that is a joint venture of Daniel Corp., USS Real Estate and the Retirement Systems of Alabama.
Other new homeowners include families and a lot of young professionals who are single or newly married, said Ross Bridge General Manager Jeff Boyd.
He expects 50 closings by the end of this month, as well as an additional 250 closings during 2006, which means there could be 300 occupied homes in Ross Bridge in one year.
Those numbers are higher than officials had expected, leading them to speed up their business plan by a year or two, he said.
The home sales is really the engine that's driving the machine," Boyd said. "In an effort to keep that momentum going, we're having to accelerate our plan somewhat."
Meanwhile, city and school officials in Hoover are closely watching the numbers, too. More people living in Ross Bridge means more responsibility in the area of services, including police, fire and schools. Ross Bridge now has six neighborhoods under development, ranging from garden homes with an average price of $250,000 to custom homes that top $1 million.
The six neighborhoods have a combined total of 500 lots, and 300 of those are fully developed and have been sold to builders, Boyd said.
In addition, work has begun in areas that were not slated for development until later.
Land in the Village Center area is being cleared for 200 home sites, as well as retail stores and offices. Officials also are finalizing plans to begin land development for two additional neighborhoods that will have a combined total of nearly 200 homes.
Ross Bridge's home construction began in June, and sales got a boost with the opening of the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa a few months later, Boyd said.
The castle-like structure and its amenities generated a lot of buzz around the Birmingham area, and that translated into an instant recognition factor for the nearby homes.
"It kind of gives you that iconic building, and everybody knows where you're at," Boyd said.
Other reasons people are drawn to Ross Bridge, Boyd said, include its proximity to the hotel's golf course, which is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Another trail site, Oxmoor Valley, is nearby.
Also playing into the demand is a development style that features sidewalks, walking trails and parks, as well as the quality reputation of Hoover schools, he said.
The Ross Bridge developers are donating land for an elementary school in the community, and Superintendent Connie Williams said the construction timetable will depend on the number of students moving into the area.
For now, students living in Ross Bridge are zoned for Deer Valley Elementary, Simmons Middle and Hoover High.
Williams said there is space for extra students at Deer Valley and Simmons.
At Hoover High, work is about to begin on a separate freshman campus that will give the high school more breathing room. The completion date is scheduled for summer of 2007, and Williams said there should not be too many high school students living in Ross Bridge before then.
Along with student numbers in Ross Bridge, enrollment at Deer Valley will be an important factor in the decision to begin building the new elementary school, Williams said.
"That will be the one that we'll watch and will trigger the construction of the elementary school at Ross Bridge," she said.
Police, fire protection:
From the city's standpoint, Ross Bridge will create a need for more police and fire personnel.
Mayor Tony Petelos said the new city budget provides additional positions in both departments, including enough police officers to create a beat for the Ross Bridge community.
The city also has ordered a firetruck to serve the area, and it will be parked at Station 6 near Deer Valley after it arrives. The developers are donating land for a fire station in Ross Bridge, but Petelos said the city is not ready to begin building it.
Long-range plans for Ross Bridge call for nearly 1,800 detached single-family homes and 600 multi-family units.
In addition to home construction, talks are under way to bring several small-scale retailers to the Village Center, Boyd said. Officials would like to see a coffee shop, bank, florist and small restaurants.
Signature Homes also is preparing to break ground on a new corporate headquarters in Ross Bridge. The company, which is building homes in the community, is relocating from Pelham.
Boyd said he expects five of the six inaugural Ross Bridge neighborhoods to be sold out by the end of next year, adding more neighbors for Brunson, the empty-nester from Homewood.
She said she likes the community's location, between Alabama 150 and Lakeshore Drive. She's also looking forward to the amenities planned for the various Ross Bridge neighborhoods.
"This is supposed to be a great area," she said. "The camaraderie is going to be great."