High-end homes, assisted living planned for Forest Acres land

07/18/2014 9:10 PM

07/18/2014 9:17 PM

A new high-end, low-density subdivision is part of the vision for a portion of land recently sold by the Carolina Children’s Home in Forest Acres, some of the last remaining undeveloped land in the area.

Midlands real estate investment group H & M Real Estate Holdings LLC purchased 26 acres between Sunnyside Drive and Beltline Boulevard – just off Trenholm Road and not far from Richland Mall – from the Children’s Home for $2.9 million in May.

The new owners’ plans include building single-family homes on a portion of the land and an assisted-living facility on the remainder, according to Forest Acres City Administrator Mark Williams. Last month, the Planning Commission approved a conceptual subdivision plan for the property.

The planned developments would not disrupt the character or traffic flow of the existing neighborhoods, said H & M partner Randy Jones of R. Leon Jones Realty.

He said the landowners’ vision for the subdivision is to have “lower square footage but higher amenity” houses, possibly geared toward baby boomers looking to downsize their living spaces but still enjoy high-quality living.

Jones would not reveal any details about plans for the subdivision, such as a number of homes, size of lots or a timeline for construction, though he said work on the property could begin “within the next year.”

The landowners are negotiating a contract for the assisted-living facility, Jones said.

“It is just prime, with wonderful developments all around it,” Jones said of the property. “It’s absolutely amazing that there’s still a little piece of land that’s still not developed after all these years.”

Indeed, land available for development is scarce in Forest Acres, situated on the eastern border of Columbia near Fort Jackson.

“I doubt you’ll see very many more (subdivisions) in Forest Acres,” said Edwin Cooper, one of the owners of Forest Land Co., whose Rockbridge neighborhood off north Trenholm Road is one of the city’s most recent subdivisions.

Building began in Rockbridge eight years ago at the height of the housing market but stalled two years later in the midst of the worst economic recession in generations, led by a real estate collapse.

The developers scaled down the cost and size of houses in the subdivision, Cooper said. Recently, he said, building has picked back up in the neighborhood, with three new cottage-style houses completed and three more in the works.

“This one’s finally taking off,” Cooper said. “I think we’ve finally come out of the really bad part of the recession where people now feel a little more confident to go out and buy houses.”

There are still about 20 available lots in the neighborhood, Cooper said.

The real estate market in Columbia has rebounded since 2011 – its worst year on record. But it has been in a minor slump this year, with Columbia-area home sales down about 3 percent for the first half of the year, compared to 2013. Building permits are down about 14 percent in the Midlands from a year ago through the first half of the year.

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