Market slows project, but plans for Wisteria Place continue; construction expected this fall

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By Sarah Wilson, Reporter

When developer Brian Griffin started making plans for a unique gated community off Village Point Road in Shallotte several years ago, he hadn’t predicted the coming recession or bank failures that have resulted in stalled development and under-whelming real estate sales.

“Four or five years ago, people would buy a piece of land sight unseen. That’s what got us here today. They thought they could flip it and make a few bucks,” Griffin said this week.

Despite the slow going after the bubble burst, Griffin remained confident that his green-friendly subdivision with family- and retiree-friendly amenities would attract attention and, eventually, buyers. Each home will contain Energy-Star appliances and other energy-saving components, and stormwater will be managed by natural means such as grass swales.

Over the past couple of years, the home has won awards in parades of homes for both Brunswick County and the Wilmington region, and people interested in the unique homes have been inquiring about purchasing.

In the meantime, several developments in the county have stalled, with some of the work turned over to bonding companies because the developers did not complete the infrastructure, leaving property owners with nearly worthless land.

Griffin understands the reluctance of potential homebuyers, but he also thinks the high-profile problems have made them savvier about the buying process. And he’s confident they will see Wisteria Place as the real thing.

“I feel we’ve designed a place that’s a good fit for everybody: families, singles, retirees…It’s a gated community with sidewalks, nature trail, playground—a kid-safe environment. There’s not a comparable community in Brunswick County.”

Most of the interest so far has come from retirees in other states including the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Griffin said the bigger cities are usually the first to experience the recession and the recovery, and he is seeing quite a bit of interest from people in those areas.

He now has a few lots in the community under contract and has set a timeline for getting construction started.

“I have a five- to six-month time period for getting everything in place,” Griffin said, explaining he plans to install infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer in June.

After that, he will seek plat approval from the Town of Shallotte, and in November or December begin conveying home sites. Construction will take two to three months to complete.

He’s confident that by the first or second quarter of next year, the market will return to a normal level.

Woody Hall, senior economist at UNC Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business, said Griffin’s prediction is probably not far off.

“Once sales stabilize, that’s a leading indicator for new construction,” Hall said. “Construction has taken a big hit. You’ve got in place some conditions that are changing. [The prediction] may be close.”

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, housing starts rose nationally for a third consecutive month in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 626,000 units.

Combined single- and multi-family starts activity increased 18.2 percent in the South, the largest regional housing market, but fell 28.4 percent in the Midwest, 8.3 percent in the Northeast and 2.1 percent in the West, according to the department.