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Economy has frozen some residential developments in S. Hall

POSTED: October 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH - The sign says that Starboard Townhomes will be available in the spring of 2006.

But judging from the empty field behind it, the development off Lights Ferry Road never came to pass.

Some infrastructure is in place, but when work will get going is not known, said Said Sadri, manager of JNS Venture, the property's Atlanta-based owner.

"It's the economy," Sadri said. "We are waiting to see what happens with the whole housing market."

JNS Venture is not alone in freezing development because of a souring economy.

The company, like other developers in fast-growing South Hall, began moving on projects just as the housing market turned south and bad mortgage debts began piling up for banks, resulting in the financial crisis the nation now faces.

Josh Porter Builders in Buford got Oakwood's approval last year for a 38-lot subdivision off McEver Road on Montgomery Drive near Lake Lanier.

"The roads and utilities are in place" for Laurel Glen subdivision, which was geared for upscale single-family homes, but that's about it, said Oakwood Planning Director Larry Sparks.

Porter declined to comment on the development's status.

Another Flowery Branch development, Park Walk at Lanier, off Jim Crow Road, also has infrastructure but not much else.

"We were told recently that someone is in the process of buying that site and getting ready to do something with it," said James Riker, Flowery Branch's planning director. "So, we may find ourselves in a circumstance where people have turned others' problems into their opportunity."

The city was approached recently by someone "who was getting background information on that site because, they said, they were going to buy it from the bank."

The Park Walk development was approved about two years ago.

A chain is draped across the development's wide entrance. A sign outside the subdivision advertises the development and lists a phone number. Calls to that number weren't returned.

Developments stalled by the economy may be common and widespread, but Riker said he believes it is not such a problem with larger developers.

"With some of these smaller (companies), who are project-by-project sort of guys, when you get into the conditions we find ourselves in, it's pretty difficult for them to hold on," Riker said.

"We'd like to see the projects move forward. I'm sure they would, too," he added.

The two South Hall cities are bucking economic trends toward commercial development, however.

Both cities have big projects under way, including Stonebridge Village shopping center and a new Hampton Inn & Suites in Flowery Branch and a new Kroger-anchored shopping center in Oakwood.

Sadri has hope that someday the Starboard development will get moving again.

Plans call for 157 two- and three-bedroom town homes and other features on the 18-acre site, including a swimming pool, walking trail and gazebo.

As far as pricing goes, Sadri laughs a bit. The original plan was for the homes to sell in the $160,000 range.

"(That's) a very difficult question now," he said.



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