Two months ago, a group of Independence city officials and civic leaders had the opportunity to tour New Town St. Charles, getting a glimpse at what New Town at Harmony might look like in a dozen years.
Now, houses have started to go up at the New Urbanism development off Truman Road just east of the Little Blue River in rural Independence, and “things are moving quickly” says Tim Busse.
Speaking last week at the Independence Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, Busse, the town architect with developer Homes By Whittaker, reported 14 homes are under some phase of construction at Harmony with 35 to 40 lots sold.
“It's a beautiful site; it's so much nicer starting out than what we had at St. Charles,” Busse said. “We want to make sure we stay true to the landscape.”
Homes By Whittaker got New Town St. Charles up and running and built most of the houses there. Four other builders are working or scheduled to work on the Harmony development, which is scheduled to include more than 70 homes.
Houses range from less than $200,000 to $500,000, and while housing prices have risen a bit in recent years, Busse said they've built some homes in St. Charles for as low as $90,000. In some cases, he explained, the range of houses in a community allowed families to stay relatively close rather than be in separate subdivisions or neighborhoods.
“It's an exciting mix of plans and details,” Busse said. “Because you have a variety of house types, you have some families living in four or five houses nearby.”
New Town is designed to be walkable, with sidewalks, narrow streets to mitigate speed and any amenities and businesses that arise staying within walking distance.
“Everything is designed from a pedestrian's point of view first,” Busse said.
When the Independence contingent visited St. Charles, Homes By Whittaker Manager Greg Whittaker said he hoped to have 24 contracts for homes this year and 50 the next year. Busse said the simple fact of houses going up can boost interest. Right now, builders aim to have two spec houses ready for the upcoming Parade of Homes.
“Vertical development really starts to help sell the project,” Busse said.
Since it began in 2003, New Town at St. Charles has grown to about 1,600 dwellings, twice as many residents and about 40 small businesses, Busse said during the February visit, and it continues to grow at about 100 dwellings a year.