Off the pages|Eastvillage coming alive with roads, plantings, plans

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 22, 2009

Homes in Eastvillage subdivision continue to exist only in a drawing book, but a local history buff’s dream is taking shape at Lee Road and Old Highway 27.

Quaint downtown-style street lights illuminate sidewalks, old oaks not cut in the land-clearing and a just-planted canopy of trees and azaleas have taken root and are thriving.

Once built, the first homes in the 57-acre development will not conjure up modern-day suburbia at first glance. On second glance, the houses should look familiar to those with an eye for building styles associated with old Vicksburg.

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The narrow roads will lead past sloping blocks of houses that evoke images of how Vicksburg’s more ornate boulevards looked during the horse-and-buggy era.

“It’s old-concept, but with a sense of community,” developer Robert Morrison III said. “It’ll be a place where neighbors gather.”

All homes in the subdivision just beyond city limits will resemble downtown environs in terms of architecture and style, with influences of the fenced balconies and stately columns of 1800s-era styles inside the city. The 42 design examples shown to potential buyers copy the essence of everything from stately antebellum homes to small, shuttered river cottages, averaging three bedrooms and at least two baths.

Construction designs do not have to mirror those examples, but they are subject to approval by a neighborhood review board consisting of Jackson-based architects Michael Barranco and Tony Sease, and development partner Cooper Morrison. A covenant will govern existing development once the neighborhood is established.

Local builder Johnny Sanders is part of the development team, along with real estate agent Harley Caldwell, but any licensed builder can construct a home in Eastvillage as long as plans meet design guidelines.

Space between the 2,000- to 4,000-square-foot homes will be tight, to fit with the antique theme of the neighborhood.

“It will make sure there’s no snaggle-toothed development in there,” Caldwell said.

Eight homes in Eastvillage were designed by Anchuca owner Tom Pharr, who focused on a specific period of time for two houses in particular.

“I looked at the houses of the 1830s through the 1930s, around the Chambers, Drummond and Cherry streets, designs that represent quintessential Vicksburg houses.” Pharr said. “Homes with that curb appeal.”

Two houses in particular, dubbed the Connoisseur and the Barrister in promotional literature, are modeled after homes on Main Street and Crawford Street and are owned by local attorney Bill Shappley and Mayor Laurence Leyens, Pharr said, adding there was no shortage of examples of old Vicksburg’s housing stock after which to model Eastvillage.

“I did that because it’s an example of what a professional-class citizen or the well-to-do, mercantile class would have,” Pharr said.

More pieces of history are revealed in the neighborhood’s street names, as developers enlisted former Old Court House Museum historian Gordon Cotton to help with ideas. The namesake of its entraceway, Wrenn Street, is former chancery clerk Bellfield Wrenn, who served in the 1820s. Knowland Place is named for Pearce Knowland, a judge and plantation owner who died just before the Civil War. Hynes Street is named for John Hynes, a wealthy Irish cotton planter whose farmland included east Warren County.

John Duett and his wife, Patti, are among the first to purchase one of 35 lots currently for sale, eschewing their Rollingwood Drive spread and summer lawn work for a more compact, yet private space with touches of old-style quaintness such as courtyard sanctuaries and mailboxes and garages accessible by side alleyways.

“It’s a lot less yard, but as you get older, your priorities change,” Duett said, looking forward to quiet walks along their 20-foot balcony overlooking the landscaped Knowland Place community park near the center of the neighborhood. Green space will cover three sizable lots in the subdivision, places developers tout as eco-friendly because no trees were cleared during the initial phase’s layout.

The lots alone, Caldwell said, will sell for $55,000 to $105,000. Homes will start in the $200,000 range and might go as high as $500,000, Caldwell said.

Additionally, the walking space along the neighborhood’s roads cater to more than just empty-nesters, “people with active lifestyles and leisure,” Morrison said.

Eastvillage’s development group consisting of the Morrisons, Caldwell, Sanders and local attorney John Wheeless, had planned the The Townhouses at Washington and Grove downtown. Sales of rent space in that venture dried up along with the economy, Morrison said, refocusing the principals’ attention on the subdivision.

The neighborhood’s early planning and design coincided with Warren County’s 2004 adoption of its subdivision ordinance, one that governs building and drainage plans to ensure county maintenance of roads. The subdivision’s initial phase has passed muster with county engineers, and a second part is expected.

Though the gas lights of days gone by have given way to electric street lighting, natural gas and sewer service from city lines will be available if residents so choose, Morrison said. Sewer rates usually double for county residents and gas rates are about 25 percent higher.

The next step, however, might not be the houses or even a neighborhood rollout and picnic for Realtors planned for Wednesday. With aesthetics a key selling point, it could come with the clearing of skies and a change of season.

“It’s a neighborhood that preserves the topography,” Morrison said. “We’re just waiting for spring.”


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at