First stage wrapping up at public-private ‘green’ development in North Charleston

The house at center in Oak Terrace Preserve was built further back on the property to protect a live oak, a common practice in the eco-friendly neighborhood in North Charleston (Jim Parker/Staff 9-17-2012).

By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

On a recent walk through Oak Terrace Preserve, manager Elias Deeb spotted contractor-workers clearing sidewalk debris with battery-charged blowers.

“The landscaping crew is all-electric,” he explained.

Brian Scott, one of the property maintenance workers for EarthFriendly Landscaping, says the cordless equipment works fine.

“It’s a lot better than smelling gasoline all day,” he quipped.

Such efforts are not uncommon at Oak Terrace Preserve. The North Charleston community incorporated an innovative drainage design into its launch in 2004 and has continued those environmentally savvy efforts since, including rolling out 140 ecologically sustainable homes.

Developed on the site of two decaying housing projects that were bulldozed, Oak Terrace Preserve has evolved from an urban renewal enterprise to a flourishing eye-catching neighborhood. The community, ringed by Enterprise Avenue stands almost next door to Academic Magnet High School, Charleston County School of the Arts and a neighborhood feeder elementary school scheduled to open in 2015.

This fall, Oak Terrace Preserve is reaching a milestone: builders are perhaps a month or two away from completing the first home construction phase. All but 10 of the 150 lots in the first section have been sold and homes built there, says Deeb, owner and project director of North Charleston-based Cedrus Development.

Cedrus, since early 2010, has been project manager of Oak Terrace Preserve, adhering to the community’s nearly-decade-old master plan. The city of North Charleston, which bought the 55-acre site in 2003, is owner-developer.

As phase one finishes up, crews this year started work on the second phase of 52 single-family homes and 18 townhomes — pushing dirt to make room for streets, sidewalks and landscaped lots in the oak-lined sector.

“We will start home construction in the fourth quarter of this year, with delivery in the first quarter (2013),” Deeb says. Townhomes will begin in price in the $130,000s and homes in the $180,000s.

A third and final grouping of 150 lots is a few years away. In that sector, “We’ve got some of the most magnificent trees, one is 86 inches in diameter,” he says.

Four builders are framing houses and townhomes in Oak Terrace Preserve. They are locally based Crescent Homes and Charleston Landmark, regional contractor Verdi Homes and national builder Pulte Group.

Home construction began in 2006 and has continued since then. But sales slowed over the past few years as a result of the national housing downturn, and the community postponed plans to kick off a new construction wave. That’s changed in recent months as the real estate market shows signs of recovery across the U.S. and seems to be on the mend in metro Charleston.

“Now things have really picked up,” Deeb says. “The neighborhood is already taking (lot) reservations for phase two,” he says.

The existing and remaining homes in the first phase are priced in the mid to upper $200,000s and run from 1,250 to 2,200 square feet. “We have had good success with resales,” Deeb says. “They don’t stay on the market more than 90 days.”

Purchasers are from a range of demographic groups: “Young families, young professionals, retirees, and surprisingly, growing families with two and three kids,” he says.

Eco-friendly innovations at Oak Terrace Preserve include natural “bioswales” using South Carolina native or adaptable plants that collect runoff; sidewalks built of concrete pavers with rock-filled pockets that act as drains; walkways built from recycled tires; preservation of live oaks and vegetation to the point of relocating home setbacks to accommodate the trees; and energy-efficient housing features.

While Cedrus Development handles the day-to-day management at Oak Terrace Preserve, at least one city official is keeping close tabs.

“The mayor”— Keith Summey — “lives right over there,” Deeb says, pointing to a upscale enclave on the tip of the Cameron Terrace neighborhood.

“We get occasional inspections from the mayor,” Deeb says. “He’s very proud of the neighborhood.”

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.