New homes to mirror old Vicksburg|[10/02/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 2, 2006

Neighborhood at Lee Road, Mississippi 27.

Imagine driving down a street and seeing the Martha Vick house on your left and, next to it a classic bungalow from Chambers Street. A few houses down, on the right, sits the Nurses’ Quarters and the stately columns of Lakemont are next door.

These one-of-a-kind homes aren’t being moved from the city streets where they’ve been for a hundred years or more. Instead, historic Vicksburg is to be re-created in a subdivision outside the city limits.

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&#8220It’s going to be like nothing Vicksburg has ever seen,” said Harley Caldwell, a local Realtor and one of the investors in the 57-acre Eastvillage.

Other investors include local businessmen Bob Morrison III and Cooper Morrison; builder Johnny Sanders; and attorney John Wheeless. The same group has been pursuing downtown development on the east side of Washington Street between Grove and Jackson streets.

Eastvillage will encompass about 200 lots at Lee Road and Mississippi 27, just north of Oak Park subdivision.

But it’s far from a typical suburban development, Wheeless said.

&#8220It’s called ‘traditional neighborhood,’ and it’s pedestrian-friendly. The idea is to bring the charm of old Vicksburg back. We want to re-create a neighborhood like Chambers or Drummond streets,” he said.

All houses will feature classic Vicksburg architecture on the exteriors, but won’t copy their floorplans. The interiors will be open and modern, Wheeless said.

Several features will define the neighborhood as &#8220traditional,” including front porches close to the street, narrow lots and rear parking so garages aren’t exposed from the front view of the house, he said.

Garages will be accessible via alleys that will run throughout the neighborhood.

&#8220We want to encourage community – sitting on front porches, walking on sidewalks, no gates,” he said. &#8220We want to take it back to how things used to be in a neighborhood.”

The lots will be smaller than in typical modern subdivisions. According to plans, the sizes range from about a quarter of an acre to a little over a half of an acre.

&#8220With bigger lots, people don’t even use all of it. This is to bring the neighborhood closer together,” Wheeless said.

But the development will also include several areas of community green space for recreation and more narrow, tree-lined streets to slow traffic.

Buyers will have a choice of 30 or 40 plans, all modeled after different homes in Vicksburg. And not all of the models are big, historic mansions with names, Wheeless said.

&#8220We want to offer all types of homes. We’re not trying to limit it to a minimum or maximum size,” he said.

Developers are attempting to sell lots and house plans together, but Wheeless said not all plans are suitable for all lots.

&#8220If you want Lot 50, then there will be plenty of plans to choose from that fit that lot. If you want a plan that’s not on that list, you might have to go with Lot 25,” he explained.

But, theoretically, a buyer could also come up with an independent plan, pending approval from the developers.

&#8220We want to stick with the classic streetscape,” Wheeless said. &#8220You can’t just have any house fit in with that look.”

Although the cost of living in the subdivision has not been finalized, Wheeless said it will be reasonably affordable.

&#8220With the lots smaller, the cost of land will be lower. And the houses range in size, too,” he said.

The idea for the development came from a similar one in Madison County, just off the Natchez Trace by the Ross Barnett Reservoir, Wheeless said.

&#8220We’re working with the same consultant out of North Carolina who is working on the one in Madison County. But each traditional neighborhood development is unique, based on each city’s architecture,” he said.

Wheeless and other developers have spent months traveling to different traditional neighborhoods throughout the Southeast.

&#8220Now we’re working on the engineering plan of the streets and such,” he said. &#8220Once it’s approved by the county, we hope to start building the roads within the next six months.”

Fom what they’ve seen, Caldwell said, nationwide, the traditional neighborhood designs are selling &#8220like hotcakes.”

&#8220I heard a slogan in Atlanta that I think is perfect – ‘We’re building the neighborhood for your children that your parents grew up in,’” she said.

&#8220Of course we’ll market it, but we feel like people will really want this,” she said.

Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, said the idea of re-creating &#8220old Vicksburg” is great.

&#8220By building in a traditional form like that, it just reinforces the love of that style and the importance of our architectural heritage,” Bell said.