BEFORE CLEVELAND BEGAN REDEVELOPING Ward Five, it was home to the city's highest level of unemployment, crime, cancer, and public housing. “Ward Five was historically left for naught,” says Rob Namy, director of development for Cleveland-based Rysar Properties. “There were literally hundreds of acres of vacant land left for foreclosure.”

Now, The Villages of Central is the largest residential construction project in the city since World War II. The project is a HUD Zone, a federal program to help cities reclaim vacant and blighted properties, encourage homeownership, and stimulate economic growth. Rysar is building the residential component of single-family houses and townhomes.

Marketing took a different approach from standard developments with agents in a sales center. “We beat the pavement,” Namy says. “We set up a table at the local grocery store. We go to public housing units and show them how they can ... own a piece of the American dream.”

BD060601178L1.jpgCLICK HERE FOR IMAGE GALLERY
BD060601178L1.jpgCLICK HERE FOR IMAGE GALLERY

BD060601178L1.jpgCLICK HERE FOR IMAGE GALLERY
BD060601178L1.jpgCLICK HERE FOR IMAGE GALLERY

Rysar also paid attention to the buyer demographic in selecting materials and finishes. Quality wasn't sacrificed, but with a mandate to sell 51 percent of the units to people with incomes at 80 percent of or below the local median income of $36,000, there was no room for frills (such as finishing the basement).

Namy says the project is about giving former residents an opportunity to come back to the neighborhood and offering first-time buyers a chance to own a home. That focus—along with a willingness to help an underserved market understand the home buying process—helped make The Villages a best-seller.

“It's all about price,” Namy says. “They can upgrade [in a few years] if they want.”

Project: The Villages of Central, Cleveland

Date sales started: January 2000

Sales through February 2006: 236

Total units planned: 465

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Phoenix, AZ.