In discussing the trials and tribulations of the overall residential development business in north Mecklenburg during the last half-decade, and acknowledging with not much more than a shrug plans by MI Homes to build a new subdivision of single-family homes off Gilead Road, the veteran developer stayed focused on his project and the growing acceptance of the "new urbanism" concept he helped introduce to the region 14 years ago. He spoke about ongoing efforts to keep Vermillion growing and expressed confidence that demand for lots in the development, no matter what happens to other projects, would continue to rise. He said Vermillion offers what builders and buyers are looking for and is convinced that the neighborhood's progress will continue no matter what happens to other projects.
And the numbers back him up.
In the 12-month period between the last two Julys — a time when housing indicators were flat at best and the "wait and see" attitude lingered — Bowman's development group sold 90 lots in Vermillion to builders.
"And if you ride through those sections today," Bowman said, "you would probably see 80 houses up and occupied because they aren't building them until they are sold."
That impressive track record in a dismal economy is why bulldozers are clearing the paths for new roads in future single-family phases of Vermillion, and Bowman is tweaking plans for an apartment complex in another section of the 400-acre plus development.
"The builders like the concept and the buyers know the project," Bowman said. "I'm to the point where I don't tell people all the positives anymore. Either they get it or they don't."
The concept, the "new urbanism" approach emphasizing connectivity and walkability featuring mixed-used residential and retail, is the key, according to Bowman.
"The urbanism movement is going strong," Bowman said. "It's really about land use, redirecting land use and having options to create the greatest benefit. It's a quality of life issue and more people are starting to get it."
Bowman wasn't always an urbanism enthusiast. He played major roles in the development of more traditional projects such as River Run and Pages Pond, and is the developer of Centennial across Huntersville-Concord Road from one of Vermillion's entrances. But when he heard a presentation by Andres Duany, he was converted.