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Saussy Burbank clearing land for Cherry homes

A worker clears tree stumps on a triangular lot at Main and Baxter streets where Saussy Burbank plans to begin building homes this month. Photo by Sharon Roberts

A worker clears tree stumps on a triangular lot at Main and Baxter streets where Saussy Burbank plans to begin building homes this month. Photo by Sharon Roberts

Saussy Burbank expects to break ground this month on three of the 43 homes it plans to build on 6.6 acres in the Cherry neighborhood.

The company is in the process of acquiring the land from Virgate 1 LLC, which bought it in May from StoneHunt Development. StoneHunt earlier this year received a rezoning for the land, which generated some opposition among affordable housing advocates and residents of Cherry, one of the city’s oldest historically black neighborhoods.

Whereas new, larger single-family homes have been popping up on isolated lots or in small groups for several years, Saussy Burbank’s project will change a large chunk of the neighborhood’s core, on both sides of Main Street northwest of Eli Street and between Main and Luther streets beyond Avant Street.

Jim Burbank, a partner at Saussy Burbank, said in an interview that the new homes will reflect the Bungalow and Craftsman style of architecture prevalent among many of the nearly 100-year-old homes in the neighborhood.

“The architecture will pay tribute to the style and vernacular of the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Burbank in a statement. “It’s important to us that we respect what’s there. The real benefit for buyers is a new home – and all the elements that go along with it – in an older, close-in neighborhood.

The new homes will range in price from the high $400,000s to the low $600,000s, and from about 2,900 square feet to 3,500 square feet.

“It’s a pretty lucky find for us – to be involved in it,” he said in the interview. “First and foremost is the location and the proximity to downtown and the Metropolitan and the new (Sugar Creek Greenway) park and everything that’s happening in that area.”

Saussy Burbank plans to build up to 39 homes and two duplexes in the Cherry neighborhood over the next two years. Photo courtesy Saussy Burbank.

Saussy Burbank plans to build up to 39 homes and two duplexes in the Cherry neighborhood over the next two years. Illustration courtesy Saussy Burbank.

He said a strong preference among millennials and baby boomers for high-density, walkable infill communities is driving such developments.

Surrounded by Elizabeth, Myers Park, Dilworth and Midtown, the neighborhood is near a hive of current and proposed development activity, including – within half a mile – more than 1,200 apartments, 175,000 square feet of office space and 60,000 square feet of retail; two hotels; and town homes and detached homes.

Some Cherry residents have been trying to hold on to the history and the character of the neighborhood, which has been slowly chipped away by commercial development on its perimeter, and now from within by the construction of new homes.

Neighbors objected to the development when it was being shepherded by StoneHunt, because of concerns that it would change the character of and raise property values in the area, resulting in the displacement of residents and the loss of its historical and cultural characteristics. The Charlotte Planning Commission voted against recommending the rezoning to the City Council.

Council members expressed concerns about the rezoning, but approved it after staff members advised that under state law, such decisions should be based strictly on land-use issues and not affordability.

However, government and nonprofit agencies’ efforts to revitalize the neighborhood with affordable housing never panned out. The Cherry Community Organization bought several homes in the 1970s and rented them out with the involvement of government affordable housing programs.

In 2005, StoneHunt LLC principals Stoney Sellars and Anthony Hunt bought the property from the Cherry Community Organization. In cooperation with the Affordable Housing Group of North Carolina Inc., StoneHunt in 2009 built a 42-unit apartment building for people aged 55 and older with low incomes.

The company planned to build reasonably priced town homes as well, but then the recession struck. Coming out of the recession, the price point changed, angering community residents, who signed petitions in protest of the project.

Burbank said his company is continuing plans to build four affordable units within two duplexes on the property, in addition to 39 market-rate houses. He said his company has met with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, which he said will help coach people through the process of buying a duplex. The duplexes will be affordable to a family making 80 percent or less of the median income, putting the duplexes in the $135,000 to $150,000 range, and Burbank said his company has been talking to current Cherry residents who may be interested in buying the units.

But Burbank said he doesn’t expect the entire development, which doesn’t have a name, to be completed for another two years: “It depends on demand,” he said.

Phase one begins this month and will include the construction of a model home and two speculative homes on three of six lots at Baxter and Main streets. The model home is expected to open in May.

The homes will be designed by Namour Wright Architecture and 505 Design Group, in collaboration with Saussy Burbank’s in-house design team. The company has built other infill developments in Myers Park, First Ward, Dilworth and Sedgefield, and in large master-planned communities including Beverly Crest, Blakeney Greens and Baxter Village.

“Cherry is a charming neighborhood in a terrific location,” said Burbank. “It is very close to uptown and within walking distance to retail, a grocery store, restaurants and the popular Little Sugar Creek Greenway and its beautiful fountains and trails. Public and private investment in this area has ignited the redevelopment of Cherry. We’re proud to join in the renaissance.”

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