The wooded trail winds down to scenic Little Fox Lake, a bucolic retreat for residents of Georgian Acres subdivision in southeast Hall County.
It’s part of the $400,000-plus investment by owner Drapac Capital Partners in a rebooting a neighborhood that, like many upstart developments during the 2007-09 Great Recession, fell off the radar and into the weeds — literally.
“Instead of just flipping the lots, like most investors do after holding it, they wanted to add value, make the project as marketable as possible,” said Eric Masaschi, senior vice president of St. Bourke Asset Management, a Drapac subsidiary.
“We’ve gone through the process of visioning what this community could be, taking something that’s broken and stained, and really trying to reposition and rebrand it.”
Perhaps not with the same amenity buildup, but a similar trend is breaking out all over Hall in communities big and small, as new developers try to shake off the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
When the housing market crashed and values plummeted, developers found they couldn’t sell lots or get financing to further develop subdivisions. Vast pieces of land were surrendered back to the banks, leaving behind unfinished streets and even homes.
When it became the new owner, Drapac’s first improvements at Georgian Acres were basic.
“One of the things we did was pressure-wash the entire community, all the curbs, gutters and sidewalks,” Masaschi said of the subdivision off Sherman Allen and Tanners Mill roads. At the entrance, “we took out tired landscaping and put in new landscaping.”
But then the company turned its attention to the 2- to 3-acre lake, cleaning it up and bringing water quality up to standards. Walking trails also were added.
The aim was “activating the community’s best asset, the lake, and giving access to residents who didn’t have it until that point,” Masaschi said.
A grand opening showcasing the lake was held Thursday.
Similar rust was shaken off at Mundy Mill, a sprawling development between Mundy Mill Road and Mountain View Road in Gainesville. Gainesville’s newest elementary school, Mundy Mill Academy, will open this fall in the community.
“We’ve been here almost three years ... the neighborhood didn’t really perform very well on paper,” said Jeff Swayze, Atlanta Region sales manager for Chafin Communities. “But then, it just took off and hasn’t stopped. I guess we’ll sell 150 houses this year.”
But growth is popping elsewhere, as well.
“We’re seeing competition we haven’t seen in the last two years,” Swayze said. “It’s become more challenging for us.”
Ken Gary with Lexes Homes Inc. told a familiar story about his company’s takeover of Laurel Glen subdivision off Montgomery Drive in Oakwood.
“We bought the subdivision from an investor who bought it from a bank — it had gone into foreclosure,” he said.
Before building houses, Lexes set about fixing drains, curbs and gutters. Now, houses are selling like hotcakes.
“We’ll sell those lots out by the end of this year,” Gary said. “This is a great location. Hall County is good, the schools are good and we’re close to the lake.”
Overall, Hall’s residential market — including rebounding properties — is on an uptick.
“I think we are really starting to see things take off, from new construction and resale standpoints,” said Stephen Lovett of The Norton Agency, a Gainesville-based real estate firm.
Hall “was not on the radar for a lot of larger builders as recent as two to three years ago,” he said. “And now everybody is willing to look at Hall County.”
Helping fuel the growth in Hall is location, as it’s sitting next door to two boom counties, Gwinnett and Forsyth.
“That demand pushes over to Hall,” Lovett said.
Gainesville permit numbers show the growth, rising from just one single-family home in 2010 to 431 in 2016.
“According to the 2017 numbers, we seem to be on pace for another record-breaking year for residential permits,” planning manager Matt Tate said.