The housing downturn hasn’t curtailed the Estridge Company’s ambitions. This fall, the Carmel, Ind.,-based company plans to start breaking ground for Symphony, a traditional neighborhood development (TND) north of Indianapolis. At 1,400 acres and 3,860 homes, it will be one of the largest new-home developments ever in Indiana.
But Symphony will be notable for more than its significant size. Composed of a handful of “villages” linked by trails and roads, the $1.2 billion project in Westfield, Ind., will offer buyers and residents the chance to live in a community designed to bring together multiple generations: singles seeking urban density in suburban locations, sports-crazed families with minivans and soccer cleats; and aging seniors in need of continuing care.
“We want to model what new neighborhoods should be,” says Paul Estridge Jr., president of the Estridge Company.
Symphony seeks to accomplish that through an “intergenerational approach” that mixes housing types and prices across the development, rather than the customary “silo-ing” in many new-home developments, where the product offered only appeals to one market segment. Under that model, when housing needs change, buyers must move elsewhere, no matter how much they might love their community.
In the works since 2002, Symphony’s plans have evolved during the downturn. “It’s a blessing, because if we hadn’t have done this during a recession, we would have done [Symphony] on a quicker time frame,” Estridge says. “We would have missed the realization that we needed to be on a different track than we were on.”
“That’s the lesson of the recession,” says Brian Canin of Orlando, Fla., planning firm Canin Associates, which designed Symphony. “Before the recession, you could say, ‘I have the luxury of targeting just the $500,000 to $2 million market. Now we have to cater to the very broad spectrum of everyone who needs a house and put the money where it really works.”
As of now, Symphony pricing is expected to run $150,000 to $500,000 for flats; $400,000 to $500,000 for stacked townhomes; $250,000 to $600,000 for single-family houses; and $500,000 to $1 million for golf-course homes. Estridge plans to bring in between 6 and 12 additional builders to the community, and sales are expected to begin in spring 2011, pending approvals this fall. Buildout is expected to take 12 to 15 years, according to the company.
That housing will be clustered in a series of villages, connected by trails and parks that add up to 480 acres of open space. “Trails are the number one amenity for the public,” notes Canin, who says new canopy trees will be planted to enhance Symphony’s trails. The community will also offer a sizable number of athletic fields, including a 5,000-seat stadium. A YMCA has already agreed to locate on the property, and a 36-field public sports complex is also under discussion.
Villages will also contain retail shops, restaurants, and other public amenities, such as outdoor plazas or central spaces where residents can gather. “Our objective is to create great people places, not giant clubhouses,” Canin says.
Undertaking such a development in the midst of a housing downturn has not been easy. The biggest challenge? Capital, of course. “Capital isn’t ready to go until it’s too late,” says Estridge, who has been frustrated by the unwillingness of lenders and investors to look seriously at his heartland project. In his quest for financing, he’s spoken with opportunity funds, bankers, wealthy individuals, and more, but with little luck. “They only want to look at Florida, Arizona, California, and Nevada,” he says. “What about Indiana, which didn’t crash and burn?”
So, the Estridge Company is self-funding Symphony, in an endeavor that reminds Estridge of his own father’s entrepreneurial efforts.
Does that assuming that level of risk make him nervous? “No,” Estridge replies. “We’re way past nervous. We’re survivors.”
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.
What: A traditional neighborhood development composed of villages and designed for multigenerational living and mixed use.
Where: Westfield, Ind., north of Indianapolis
Estimated project value: $1.2 billion
Builder and developer: The Estridge Company
Land planner: Canin Associates, Orlando
Housing units: 3,860, including multifamily and single-family homes.
Open space: 118 acres, including golf course, trails, and parks.
Timeline: Construction is expected to begin in 2011, with a 12- to 15-year buildout.