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County seeing housing boom way out’

This is the first in a two-part series on housing and housing construction in Warren County.

[5/2/04]Location, location, location.

Lisa Wamsley said that was one of the main reasons she and her husband, Ty Wamsley, decided a home in the Amberleaf neighborhood off U.S. 80 instead of in the city limits, and they’re not the only ones.

A growing number of residential developments are popping up in areas previously thought of as being “way out,” but from The Trace development off Fisher Ferry Road to Tucker Crossings in the northeast part of the county homes and lots are selling.

“We like it out here,” Lisa Wamsley said. “It’s nice and quiet.”

The Wamsleys and their two children, Max, 6, and Mia, 4, moved to Vicksburg four years ago when Ty Wamsley took a position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center, previously known as Waterways.

Lisa Wamsley said they looked at several homes in older, more established neighborhoods in the city, but fell in love with the Amberleaf development about three miles east of Beechwood.

“We liked the location being closer to Clinton and Jackson and we like the neighborhood,” Lisa Wamsley said.

Vanessa Leech, owner of Leech Real Estate of Vicksburg and president of the Warren County Realtors association, said those reasons are typical among people choosing homes in newer developments.

“We’re finding that a lot of people are wanting (to be) out, to be away from work,” Leech said.

Of several developments finishing up or just starting, only two are inside the City of Vicksburg. One of those, the Tommy Jones Estates, is a city project to build new, affordable housing in Kings off North Washington Street. The other, Savannah Hills off Indiana Avenue, is the only completely private new development in the city.

Most of the newer developments are north of Interstate 20 in the Oak Ridge Road area. The most recent ones announced include Tucker Crossings off Oak Ridge Road, Forest Cove behind Lake Forest and Little Wood off Lee Road.

Leech said growing industries at Ceres, the new hospital and school, and other businesses along U.S. 61 North are attracting people to that area.

“The growth is coming this way,” she said.

Another reason for building outside the city is there simply isn’t any room within the corporate limits for new subdivisions, said Pam Beard of BrokerSouth GMAC Real Estate. Most of the new developments are aimed at upper management and executives at new industries, doctors at River Region, employees moving here with the Corps and retirees.

Beard said those homebuyers are mostly looking for convenience and bigger lots.

New construction costs are ranging from about $85 to $100 per square foot and homesite lots are selling from $25,000 in Tucker Crossings to $100,000 at Turning Leaf. Despite rising costs and a surging number of homes being built daily, the new neighborhoods are filling up quickly.

Last month, new home sales across the South set a record, up 20 percent from last year, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department last week.

“We still have a need for housing that we still haven’t met yet,” Beard said.

North Ward Aldermen Gertrude Young, who is also a licensed Realtor, said Vicksburg and Warren County are short anywhere from 300 to 500 homes, depending on estimates. She said the biggest demand right now is for moderately priced homes, but there is also a need for more affordable housing. “We’re talking about $80,000 housing,” Young said.

Leech said another growing segment of new homebuyers is retirees moving here.

“They’re looking for a slower pace,” Leech said.

Patio home developments such as Pear Orchard off U.S. 80 and Savannah Hills are attracting younger retirees who want less yard to maintain, Beard said.

Thad Pratt of Live Oaks Development, the group developing Tucker Crossings, said younger people are looking for convenient locations, more land and secluded lots. He said whether old or young, it’s all about quality of life and what each new development can offer.

Monday: Finding a house for less than $100,000 becoming big challenge in Warren County.