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Harpers Mill: The mixed-use community is ramping up construction and expanding its amenities

Harpers Mill: The mixed-use community is ramping up construction and expanding its amenities

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As developers can attest, there are no guarantees in residential real estate. Economic downturns, banking crises, rising interest rates – the pitfalls can seem endless. When J. Mark Sowers bought a large parcel of woodland off Otterdale Road in Chesterfield County in 2004, though, he was confident his plans for a mixed-use, master-planned community would succeed.

The 1,200-acre parcel had been rezoned for residential use, and the success of other residential developments in the area boded well.

“I knew that the area’s record of success would carry forward in the new development” of Harpers Mill, said Sowers, president of Oakbridge Corp.

In a career that spans 40 years, Sowers has developed more than 1,000 residential lots in more than 20 subdivisions, including Hallsley and Rosemont in Chesterfield.

His plans for Harpers Mill were ambitious: a 2,000-home community that offered retail shops at its center, along with an extensive network of walking trails and parks scattered throughout the development. Housing products would range from town houses and starter homes to high-end properties.

It didn’t start out auspiciously. Construction in the development’s first section began in late 2007, just as the economic downturn began.

“It slowed down everything,” Sowers said. “But we’re seeing a lot of movement now.”

Currently, 14 builders are active in the community, including CraftMaster Homes, Main Street Homes and StyleCraft Homes, as well as HHHunt Homes, Ryan Homes, LifeStyle Home Builders and Eagle Construction of Virginia. In addition to spec homes, custom-built options are available. To date, 225 homes have been constructed.

“We’ve gone through everything we’ve got,” Sowers said. “We have 200 lots that are just now getting recorded, and we’ll bring on another 210 this year. All the top builders are here, getting ready for this summer.”

Architectural styles in Harpers Mill are wide-ranging, but Craftsman and Farmhouse elevations are especially popular among the community’s homebuyers, said Jeff Tunstall, president of CraftMaster Homes.

CraftMaster Homes has built more than 20 homes in Harpers Mill, and it has an additional 27 homesites available.

Single-family homes in the community range from 1,800 to 5,000 square feet, with prices starting in the $250,000s.

Work on the community’s amenities is accelerating, too. A clubhouse is under construction, along with a swimming pool and a soccer field. A dog park will follow later this year, along with an additional 14,000 feet of walking trails.

“We’re ramping up the amenities,” Sowers said.

Sowers’s company is also working on plans for a retail space to be located at the center of the development.

“We’ll have a restaurant, an ice cream shop and a convenience store with gas,” he said. “Residents can walk to it from everywhere in the community.”

The current uptick in sales has confirmed what Sowers predicted 12 years ago: A master-planned, mixed-use community in the area will attract homebuyers. And the sales should continue to be strong, Tunstall said.

He added: “The demand for Harpers Mill is increasing because it’s providing a much needed opportunity for homeowners to be in an affordable location with a community that will have an unbelievable amenity package and all the conveniences desired right at their fingertips along Hull Street.”


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