Community building: Hammond's Ferry houses new designs

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From one of the higher rooftops in the developing Hammond's Ferry community in North Augusta, project director Turner Simkins can see the completed structures of the development's first phase, the turned earth and rough dirt roads for the next phases, the Savannah River, the Confederate powderworks smokestack and the Bon Air Hotel.

He also believes he can see a new future, inspired by the past.

Hammond's Ferry is the area's most formal foray into new urbanist design.

New urbanism looks at architecture as extending beyond the parameters of single homes or businesses, instead focusing on communities with an emphasis on easy navigation, either by mass transit or by foot.

The communities are designed so the lines between commercial and residential blur, and neighborhoods are developed based on residential diversity.

It's not unusual to see a small starter home snuggled up to a larger house. The first such communities began in the early 1980s and the most famous examples are Seaside, the Florida panhandle community featured in the film The Truman Show , and the central Florida town of Celebration built by the Disney corporation.

While other developments in the Augusta area, such as Northridge in Columbia County, have experimented with new urbanism, Hammond's Ferry is the first to embrace the idea. Already, businesses have opened in what will become a secondary commercial core, and construction continues despite the slump in the housing market.

Mr. Simkins began his career working on more traditional real estate projects, but said he found himself favoring new urbanist ideas.

"Very few architecture schools even teach this," he said. "There are really only a few of them. People are just not trained to build communities anymore."

Mike Watkins was trained as an architect and for nearly 20 years worked as a designer of communities for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., one of the first new urbanist development companies, responsible for both Seaside and Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Md., where he still lives. He said designing these communities means answering questions people neglected to ask for much of the 20th century.

"Now they are asking," he said. "They are asking what if we designed a place where children could walk to school, or you could hang out on the front porch or chat with your neighbor?"

He said the principle in mind is community out the front door and privacy out the back.

"It's about offering choice."

On a warm October afternoon, Hammond's Ferry resident Walker Posey walks from his house to Manuel's Bread Cafe, one of two open businesses in the neighborhood. It's a walk he says he makes about 10 times a week.

He said having a sidewalk cafe in walking distance not only encourages his patronage, but also his participation in the community.

"It encourages you to interact," said Mr. Posey, who has lived in Hammond's Ferry since June. "I was concerned about being so close to people. It's a positive, but it could be a negative as well. But so far, I've had no problems with it."

Mr. Posey said he was attracted to the ideals of new urbanism long before he found his house. The North Augusta native said his move into the community was a long time coming.

"I had actually been looking in here since they began developing it," he said. "I've wanted to be here since the ground was broken."

Asked whether he worried about the prospect of more people crowding the development's intentionally narrow streets, Mr. Posey said he looked forward to the expansion plans.

"I mean, that's really what it's all about," he said. "The people."

Although priced well above local median prices, with small starter homes for about $300,000 and high-end houses with a river view topping $1 million, Mr. Simkins said the new urbanist ideas seem to serve as a powerful marketing tool.

"But it isn't a gimmick," he said. "It's not like having face painting here every weekend, like the guy in the gorilla suit outside the car wash. I would hope that the best marketing tool we have is the people who live here."

The completion of all three phases is targeted for 2015, with the commercial "town center" core going up next and then a secondary residential area.

Mr. Simkins said the volatility of the real estate market favors the slow and steady.

"I mean, fortunately or unfortunately, we're in a market that won't let us grow too fast," he said. "It's something that you do see, though, in places like resorts where they have gotten too big for their britches."

Mr. Watkins said that emphasis on slow and steady growth is the right approach.

Although new urbanist projects are often derided as manufactured, he believes the communities attract those searching for a sense of residential belonging. He also noted that new urbanism isn't really new at all.

"Isn't that how North Augusta started?" he asked. "Wasn't it a planned development, built because of the city across the river? This is just the same, only 100 years or so later."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

NEW URBANISM CONCEPTS

According to Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, two of the founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism, an authentic new urbanist neighborhood contains elements such as:


- A discernible center.

- Most dwellings within a five-minute walk of the center.

- A variety of dwelling types so that young and old, singles and families, poor and wealthy may live together.

- A network of connected streets that disperse traffic.

- Buildings in the neighborhood center placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room.

Source: NewUrbanNews.com

Comments (25) Add comment
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sctex
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sctex 10/20/08 - 03:52 am
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North Augusta is dead.

North Augusta is dead.

truth-now
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truth-now 10/20/08 - 05:51 am
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I absolutely love Hammonds

I absolutely love Hammonds Ferry and what they are doing there. Turner Simkins is doing a fantastic job.

augusta49
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augusta49 10/20/08 - 06:48 am
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Hammonds Ferry is like a

Hammonds Ferry is like a ghost town. No one speaks. You don't see children out playing. People are VERY unfriendly.
I certainly wouldn't want to live there. It's very weird.

The Godfather
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The Godfather 10/20/08 - 08:27 am
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Hammonds Ferry is on the

Hammonds Ferry is on the cutting edge. Some of the construction taking place is award winning. I can't wait to sell this old house on the hill so my family can relocate there.My children love the walk way and park next to the river.Augusta49- try the new bread shop-it is the best in town-maybe you were just having a bad hair day.

augusta49
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augusta49 10/20/08 - 09:12 am
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Well, I've visited out there

Well, I've visited out there at least 10 times, and even went to some grand opening type thing on a Sunday. Very unfriendly.
I guess that type of place is ok for some people. That's just not a place that I'd want to live. I passed by a house while I was walking one Sunday out there, and I spoke to a man and woman who lived in one of the homes. I told them that I liked their home and it sure was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon on their front porch. They were very unfriendly and asked that I keep walking. It's just a very weird atosphere each time I've been.

Does_it_really_matter
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Does_it_really_matter 10/20/08 - 09:43 am
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All it needs is a guard

All it needs is a guard shack....very people friendly to the elitist that can afford to live there. I find it too stepford for me.

jlhs32
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jlhs32 10/20/08 - 09:48 am
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Did they really ask that you

Did they really ask that you move along, Augusta49? How rude. I do think it is an odd atmosphere. I have long wanted to buy a house there, but it is hard to lose square footage, while paying so much more. To move I would lose 1000 SQ FT while paying $150, 000 more. The housing slump has not effected their prices very much. One night I visited the area and there were some very loud young people roaming the streets. Also they pipe music from that cafe to the outside streets. Does that bother any of the neighbors?

karmakills123
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karmakills123 10/20/08 - 10:21 am
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Hammonds Ferry is going to be

Hammonds Ferry is going to be my home in just a few months ..it's a great place for kids and You can walk to everything you need..my reason for the move is the greenway is right there and so is the river ..all the folks I have met there and those whom I know are moving there are great people...Hale Plantation in Gainsville FL is where I got my first taste of urbanism and I loved it...it's not for everyone...if you don't care for it you certainly should'nt go there.

GnipGnop
13148
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GnipGnop 10/20/08 - 10:22 am
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i'm just curious as to where

i'm just curious as to where the poor people they claim can live there fit in. Nice place but let's call it what it is. A rich neighborhood. Now I have no probem with that but don't expect us all to buy into the "poor people" can live there crap. Oh and to sctex. You must not live in NA cause it is very much alive and experiencing most of the growth in this area.

jlhs32
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jlhs32 10/20/08 - 10:55 am
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I just saw the poor and

I just saw the poor and wealthy comment in the grey box above. The only poor I know of live just outside the Hammond's Ferry neighboorhood, or maybe in the bushes. Those houses are very pricey when you consider size of lot and SQ FT.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 10/20/08 - 11:18 am
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It's not for everyone...you

It's not for everyone...you certainly have the freedom (for now) to choose.

ITDoc
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ITDoc 10/20/08 - 11:24 am
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In the upcoming version of

In the upcoming version of America, all developments will be REQUIRED to have housing for the poor. Our heritages will blend and we will become Utopia. No one will want for any thing.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 10/20/08 - 11:44 am
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to tall2..LOL ain't it the

to tall2..LOL ain't it the truth !!

Rob Pavey
561
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Rob Pavey 10/20/08 - 11:50 am
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I've toured the area several

I've toured the area several times and think it is wonderful. It is not a place I would choose to live......but it is at least something different from all the cookie-cutter subdivisions we have scattered from south augusta to evans. The developer rolled the dice by offering something new and different, so I hope it proves to be successful for them. there are lots of subdivisions with choices of floor plans and siding, but very few that actually offer variations in lifestyle.

iletuknow
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iletuknow 10/20/08 - 12:27 pm
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Full of yankees and close to

Full of yankees and close to the cancer causing smokestacks.

creditunion
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creditunion 10/20/08 - 01:11 pm
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its amazing na has their

its amazing na has their elites who drive around in the most expensive cars you can buy only to cheat the tax payer by not paying their taxes; With all the government sponsored building in na the average tax payer must be taxed to death in order to let those good ole boys with their expensive toys forget you are supposed to pay taxes on your vehicle.

creditunion
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creditunion 10/20/08 - 01:12 pm
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from what I have seen some of

from what I have seen some of the na elite are very rude and obnoxious.

realistineducation
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realistineducation 10/20/08 - 01:36 pm
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who can afford these houses?

who can afford these houses? the place will suffer the same fate as the development on the river, look how many of those condos are vacant, even when I could afford to buy one last year, I didn't because they are cheaply built, they are going to loose their a--

karmakills123
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karmakills123 10/20/08 - 02:27 pm
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LOL the houses are lovely and

LOL the houses are lovely and well built...believe me I know how to spend my money..and yes those condos were poorly constructed and a bad investment..however naysayers aside the Ferry will prosper because those of us investing in it want it to... And I'm not sure who your talking about but I pay my taxes and I am sure there are more tax dodgers and deadbeats across the river than in little old North Augusta..we'll be fine over here. creditunion...a little envy.. perhaps? I can count over 20 Ga tags on vehicles in my neighborhood right now these folks aren't visiting.. they live here.

oh man
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oh man 10/20/08 - 03:50 pm
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karmakills123 so you are

karmakills123 so you are saying your na neighbors are not paying their taxes. I reread the post from the creditunion thing and you both agree. nA has a lot of tax dodgers.

oh man
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oh man 10/20/08 - 03:51 pm
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the ones not paying their

the ones not paying their taxes in na are affecting you and your taxes.

creditunion
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creditunion 10/20/08 - 03:52 pm
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keep your eyes out karma for

keep your eyes out karma for the silver porsche turbo s something with the ga dealer tags; he has the tag to not pay taxes on the car. it affects your taxes not mine. He is paying someone in ga to have a dealer tag just not sure who.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 10/20/08 - 05:22 pm
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So whatyour saying is that

So whatyour saying is that the scum bags from augusta are over here scalping the SC residents...I agree send them packing......back to GA..where they belong.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 10/20/08 - 05:31 pm
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OK so how about we sic North

OK so how about we sic North N.Augusta's finest on these scumbag tax dodgers....how are ya'll gonna feel about them getting arrested...your going to scream bloody murder !!! Ya can't have it both ways............

Does_it_really_matter
1
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Does_it_really_matter 10/20/08 - 07:41 pm
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just nail the gypsies and

just nail the gypsies and others who have tennessee tags on thier car....some post office in some nameless town, a PO box and BAM....we live there....no property taxes for our "vacation" cars

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