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VOL. 129 | NO. 14 | Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Housing Option Comes to Victorian Village

By Amos Maki

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Florence Hervery had been thinking about the next phase of her life for some time.

The 55-year-old Whitehaven resident had been mulling over a move Downtown, but she wanted a home, not a condominium or apartment, and was hesitant to move into the bustling Downtown core.

Scott Blake, president of the Victorian Village Inc. Community Development Corp., and other investors plan to build seven single-family homes targeting retirees in a development called Planters Row, 653 Jefferson Ave.

(Rendering Courtesy of Scott Blake)

Hervery found just what she was looking for at Planters Row II in Victorian Village. Planters Row II will feature seven single-family homes built with universal design principles so residents can “age in place” on the edge of Downtown.

“I’ve been considering a move to Downtown for a while, and I fell in love with the plan for Victorian Village,” said Hervery, CEO of Case Management Inc. “I just thought it would be perfect for me.”

Scott Blake, president of Design 500 Inc., and Victorian Village stakeholders purchased the old ICB store site at 653 Jefferson Ave. at auction for $218,000 and will develop Planters Row II there.

Blake is tapping into the increasingly popular concept of universal design, which makes homes more accessible for people as they enter or near retirement. Blake, who is also president of the Victorian Village Inc. Community Development Corp., is serving as master planner on the project and is designing the homes in the unique style of Victorian Village.

“We’re going to build for a market that will attract so many more buyers than standard construction would, and it’s small enough of a project that it can work and be a market indicator for much larger development,” Blake said.

The homes, which will be built on 150-foot-deep lots and can feature up to 2,000 square feet on one floor, will include wider doorways and halls, cabinets and appliances at levels that can be easier to reach, non-slip tile in showers and plenty of open spaces. The homes will begin at around $290,000.

Blake said Planters Row II offers people who want to remain in their homes longer an opportunity to do so while remaining engaged in the community.

“That’s really a national movement of people who want to stay involved and be with groups with all ages instead of being more and more isolated and eventually ending up in some long-term facility where you’re around the same age group of people all the time,” said Blake. “The more engaged you are and the richer your life is going to be. You get comfortable living with an incredible skyline view at the same time.”

A 2011 national survey by AARP found that two-thirds of people aged 45 and older want to remain in their homes as long as possible. The percentages tend to increase, up to 90 percent, as people age.

“It’s such an incredibly fast-growing demographic, and people who start to reach my age – I’m 52 – realize they can’t live on three floors forever,” Blake said.

Victorian Village, a 10-square-block neighborhood bound by Poplar Avenue, Danny Thomas Boulevard, Madison Avenue and Manassas Street, is experiencing a renaissance.

The Mallory-Neely House reopened after being closed in 2005 because of budget cutbacks. Financial support from the Victorian Village CDC and the Association for the Preservation of Antiquities allowed the Woodruff-Fontaine House to enlarge its event space, giving it enough room to host 400 people. The James Lee House is being transformed into a bed-and-breakfast inn.

Blake envisions making Jefferson an urban pedestrian and bicycle “greenway” that provides a major link to Downtown and the ambitious Main Street to Main Street project.

The city has long-range plans for a protected bicycle lane on Jefferson from Cleveland Street to Third Street. A similar bicycle lane is planned to link to Channel 3 Drive and the Memphis end of the Harahan Rail Bridge’s planned pedestrian and bicycle overpass.

All of the neighborhood momentum and the chance to live in a home near, but not in, the center of Downtown, appealed to Hervery.

“Downtown is young and hip, and if that’s where you are in life, that’s great,” said Hervery. “I’m a little more settled, and Victorian Village meets my lifestyle. It puts me right in the heart of things but away from a lot of the hustle and bustle.”

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751