A piece of property that has been in turmoil for more than 10 years has been purchased by national homebuilder Ashton Woods for $20 million.
In January, the Atlanta-based company became the new owner of 500 acres of the Watson Hill tract, much of which is wetlands, after going under contract with Johnson Development Associates 18 months prior.
The developer plans to construct 950 homes, and in September began clearing the land for Phase I, which will include putting in infrastructure.
Issues surrounding how the 6,600-acre property would be developed go back to 2005 when North Charleston annexed the property; the city ended up in court with Summerville. The Great Recession changed everything, and Watson Hill, along with many other housing developments, stopped.
In 2009, the land was repurchased by then-MeadWestvaco Corp., now WestRock, to slow down and consider how development of the property might go forward.
But the adversity hasn’t deterred developers from seeing the value of the land and its location.
“It’s an area of North Charleston that we wanted to be in,” said Robert Norton, president of Ashton Woods’ Charleston division. “It’s really why we went after that piece. ... There’s not a lot of competition in the area, it’s in an unbelievable school district, and it’s right by a main traffic thoroughfare.”
Phase I should be completed by November 2021, and Norton expects to see houses going up starting in January 2022, with first closings in May or June of that year.
Norton said he thinks a main factor in this being the plan that finally worked out for the land was that it reduced the original plans by another developer for 4,000 homes to Ashton Woods’ present-day proposal of 1,004.
Plans are for 300 single-family homes to be built on about 150 acres across from Mateeba Gardens Road. The remaining 600 will be built to the east and south.
The last 54 units will be retained by Johnson Development.
Prices will most likely range from the high $200,000s to the $400,000s, Norton said.
This project would make the seventh Ashton Woods community in Charleston.
“We’re really excited. We feel like we’ve taken the right steps to also ensure that we’re accounting for the historic nature of that area,” Norton said.