Duany, one of the authors of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, is a world-renowned neighborhood designer and a founder of the urbanist movement.
"When I heard him speak, it was like hearing the call at a Billy Graham revival," Bowman said. "I saw the light."
Bowman compiled the property and introduced the idea for Vermillion to town planners in 1998. The proposal includes all types of residential units — "we've got one-bedroom apartments and half-million dollar houses," Bowman said — with retail shops, a restaurant, a post office and a village green. The project, from day one, also envisioned a residential and retail corridor along the rail line on the neighborhood's western border in anticipation of future commuter train service.
All aspects highlighted in a 13-point summary of new urbanism that describes neighborhoods radiating out from a central point featuring narrow streets to slow traffic, open space, walkability, proximity to shops, parks and businesses and access to transit.
Everything except the rail line has evolved as Bowman expected.
"I envisioned the train," he said. "Other than that, it's what we planned for."
Despite the absence of that central component, Vermillion has thrived.
"This has remained an active project," he said. "Things have been very steady here, but I think this is the only place that can say that. There are a lot of projects on the books, but I don't think they can compete with what we have."
And implementation of much-discussed commuter rail service, he added, would be the crowning touch for Vermillion and the entire eastern side of Huntersville.
"The promise of the train fueled this concept," Bowman said. "It's a great neighborhood and the builders and the buyers are seeing that, but if we get the train, everything comes together. The body is in place, but up around the rail line, that's the brain. Imagine the development, including a grocery store and other shops. People on this side of town wouldn't have to go to the other side of town, everything would be accessible. What would that mean for traffic? What would that do for everyone's property values?"
With or without the train, the planning for Vermillion doesn't stop. The apartments Bowman wants to begin soon are near the rail line — "I can't wait 20 years for something to happen with the train," he said — and he's confident the concept for the neighborhood, created with the capacity to adjust to market needs and buyer demand, will endure.
"This is a vibrant community," he said. "and I see this continuing to grow for a long time."
With more than 450 single-family houses and 200 townhomes already in place, just as many future residential units already approved and demand continuing to rise, it's hard to argue with Bowman's vision. Without rubbing it in, he's been right so far.