The date May 1, 2007, changed the direction of the custom builder Walters Homes. That’s when it broke ground on Stafford Park, a 370-acre mixed-use redevelopment project in Manahawken, N.J., that, when completed, will include nearly 680 housing units. “When we first got involved in Stafford Park, one of the [township’s] requirements was that it had to be LEED certified,” recalls Ed Walters, the Barnegat, N.J.–based builder’s founder and partner. “Since then, we have transformed our company so that everything we do hits LEED.”
So its Whispering Hills project on 85 wooded acres in Barnegat, which produced 36 of the company’s 50 closings last year, will ultimately offer 107 townhouses, 99 single-family homes, and 52 rental apartments all certified LEED Silver.
That community recently won “Best Green Building” for its design and construction elements from the Shore Builders Association of Central Jersey, which also chose Walters Homes as its first “Green Builder of the Year.”
The latter award was for Stafford Park, where Walters Homes has already completed 388,000 square feet of retail space and 112 units of affordable apartments in five low-rise buildings (see photo) that are certified LEED Gold, the first affordable housing project in the state to achieve that level. (Walters Homes owns and manages that property.)
Over the course of the next five years, Walters Homes will build 216 market-rate apartments (which it’s starting in two weeks), 349 single-family homes, and office space at Stafford Park, all of which will be LEED certified.
To become greener, Walters says his company redid all of its architectural designs, which he says actually moved the process along quicker. And like most green builders, Walters Homes is touting the energy efficiency of its houses, which Walters says have been getting HERS scores in the 50s. The company is also selling homes in its shore communities—where $1 million homes are not uncommon—at very attractive prices: townhomes at Whispering Hills, which range from 1,900 to 2,200 square feet, start at $234,900; its single family homes, which range from 1,800 to 3,000 square feet, start at $249,900.
Rents for Walters’ affordable apartments are running from $1,250 to $1,400 per month.
Stafford Park will consume most of this builder’s efforts over the next several years. But Walters says that when the economy finally turns around—and he’s seeing signs of that already at the nearby vacation mecca Long Beach Island—he is interested in expanding his 27-year-old company north up the coastal corridor or south toward Philadelphia.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Philadelphia, PA.