Ivy League

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Creative land deals are often the most important aspect of infill home building successes.

June 21, 2000

Creative land deals are often the most important aspect of infill home building successes. Atlanta move-up kingpin John Wieland's Olde Ivy at Vinings is a perfect example.

It will eventually carve 268 upscale attached homes, targeted at affluent urbanites, out of a hilly, 30-acre site right on the I-285 Perimeter, in one of North Atlanta's most active office, shopping, and nightlife districts. This is a location both yuppies and aging baby boomers will pay through the nose to call home. So how did Wieland get it without busting the budget of a home building pro-forma?

Simply, John Wieland has local market knowledge. First, he landed the five-acre Carmichael estate, which held a historic, 19th century home that had to be photographed, mapped, and recorded in every way possible for posterity. Good thing, because when Wieland tried to move it to a new site, it fell apart.

 

Olde Ivy's big, rear-loaded townhouses face the street with individually articulated elevations reminiscent of Old Town Alexandria (Va.). Inside the Wilkerson model, the 32-foot width allows a floor plan that lives with single-family ambiance.

 

Wieland also knew that an adjacent 25 acres was under contract to Woodfield Academy, a private school planning a new campus there. But the school had a problem with the site: not enough flat ground for required playing fields. Wieland held title to a more suitable site nearby, adjacent to one of his high-end single-family communities.

 

"We steered Woodfield to that site, and in return they dropped the contract to what is now the bulk of Olde Ivy at Vinings," explains Wieland's region vp Jeff Akin, who heads the project team. That was nearly three years ago. Akin won't reveal the land acquisition cost, but it's a fair bet it looked steep to competitors. But gross density of nearly nine units per acre, and an average sale price that should eventually exceed $400,000, probably make it look like a bargain today.

 

The first phase of Olde Ivy is 69 townhouses on 7.9 acres of the site, ranging from 2300 to 4100 square feet, base-priced $299,900 to $364,900. These big, rear-loaded units are 24 to 32 feet wide and feature as many as three stories of living space above a finished garage level (see floor plan). Though attached, each townhouse is individually articulated, with different exterior brick, porch and shutter details.

 

"John Wieland and Jaime Baray (Atlanta-based design consultant) traveled to the Washington, D.C., market to study townhouses in Georgetown, Alexandria and The Kentlands for design ideas," says Akin. "Then Baray and our in-house designers collaborated to produce these Olde Ivy townhomes."

 

In-house interior merchandisers Gail Lightfoot and Virginia Burkes-Pumpelly lavished targeted yuppie couples with move-up finishes, such as this whirlpool tub, even though many are actually first-time buyers.

 

That trip has already paid for itself. Wieland opened a model home in January, and sold 27 units by late April, averaging just over $330,000. Buyers in this phase are mostly young urban professionals, many of them newly-weds. "We market these townhouses by direct mail to nearby high-end rental apartments," reveals Akin. "If a couple plans to get married, this product appeals to them. It has the space and ambiance of an upscale single-family home, and they don't have to give up the high-energy location they're used to."

 

Shown here is the model, a Wilkerson floor plan, which is the largest townhouse at 4100 square feet (if all the options are exercised). Merchandised in-house by designers Gail Lightfoot and Virginia Burkes-Pumpelly, it takes full advantage of its 36-foot width to create a sophisticated, single-family feel, from the curved staircase in the foyer to the second floor master suite, which features a coffered ceiling running to just under 11 feet in height. Wieland builds it for $70 to $80 a square foot, depending on options chosen.

The next phase of Olde Ivy, scheduled for a model opening in late July, will be even larger townhouses (all over 3000 square feet), with detached garages to create exterior courtyards, base-priced $409,900 to $486,900. Wieland already has two pre-sales.

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