Developer banks on unique quality of homes
Pleasant Valley subdivision to include classic style, trails
If it's built, they will come.
That's what residential developer Jim Leeper and Pacific Lifestyle Homes are banking on.
'There isn't much lot inventory left because the small builders have eaten up all the lots, and there just hasn't been any development,' Leeper said of the draught in new construction. 'I think the timing for this subdivision is great. People are sick of bad stuff. Brand new is brand new.'
Leeper is referring to Brookside at Pleasant Valley, a new 37-acre subdivision off Southwest Butler Road in Gresham. The project is the first large-scale residential development in the city in four years. It is also the first housing construction to be undertaken in the Pleasant Valley area since it was annexed into Gresham in 2003. When completed, the subdivision will contain 200 homes, with up-scale amenities, direct access to regional trail systems and a neighborhood park.
For Leeper, the project signifies a needed jump start to the stale local real estate market and an opportunity to boost his own community.
Leeper grew up in Gresham, graduating from Reynolds High School in 1986. He launched his own commercial printing business in 1992, printing all the forms and advertising for the former Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village. As the park's business declined, Leeper tapped his next largest customers - those in the real estate market - and couldn't resist getting in on the boon in residential development.
He started his own development company in 2004 after building a home for his family off Butler Road. Shortly thereafter, he purchased the land next to his house and developed a 30-home subdivision around his own 2.5-acre space.
Then the market tanked.
'The new housing market just flat-lined,' Leeper said. 'There were no new houses to drive prices back up.'
Just down the street from Leeper's property sat the 37-acre area, which was owned by Pacific Lifestyle Homes of Vancouver, Wash. The stagnant market had forced the company to seek bankruptcy protection in 2008, stalling development plans. Eventually, Pacific Lifestyle Homes lost the site and the door opened for Leeper to step in.
He spent 18 months working with the owner to buy the area, finally sealing the deal earlier this year. Leeper shut down his printing business and acquired the permits needed to begin development.
The first phase of building Brookside at Pleasant Valley will offer 23 homes, ranging in size from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and carrying a price tag between $285,000 and $325,000. Sewers, streets, lighting, sidewalks and landscaping are expected to be completed by January.
Leeper, who partnered in construction with Pacific Lifestyle Homes after it emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, plans to unveil a model home by April 2012. Phase two will include 40 to 50 additional homes, as well as a trail on the south side of the property with future connection to Metro's regional trail system through nearby Gresham Butte. A planned park will contain an interactive water feature, play structure, barbecue pit, community garden and basketball courts.
But it's the atmosphere of the subdivision that Leeper says will attract buyers.
'We're using innovative building techniques that are far different than the way subdivisions have been built in the past,' he said. 'For example, we're creating walking-friendly communities and homes that have front porches. The houses resemble the 1940s and 1950s, where there was community interaction and engagement.'
Leeper is also thinking 'green' by employing more eco-conscious stormwater practices and environmentally sensitive development procedures, such as working with the natural terrain as building occurs.
Leeper admits it's 'risky' to embark on residential construction in an already 'anemic' market. With nothing to boost sagging home values, buyers are skittish about committing to a purchase.
'There is no supply, so we're going to satisfy the supply,' he said. 'We need something to drive those home prices up.'
The time is right for an area like Brookside at Pleasant Valley, Leeper said. Residential construction isn't a reinvention of the wheel, but it is a new concept given the current relationship between builders and buyers.
'We believe the slate is clear with new home development,' he said. 'We're creating a community, not a subdivision, and as pioneers right now, we're setting the bar a little higher. The time is right to start this project because people are getting more optimistic about buying a home. When you purchase a home, you want a sense of place. That's what we're building.'
• Brookside at Pleasant Valley is located off Southwest Butler Road, east of Southeast 190th Drive in Southwest Gresham. The subdivision will feature 200 homes between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet and priced from $285,000 to $325,000. A planned trail will connect with Metro's nearby regional trail system and a neighborhood park will be equipped with an interactive water feature, barbecue pit and other amenities. The development's model home should open in April 2012.