House under construction at Benn’s Grant

Published 1:35 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2015

By Allison T. Williams

Staff writer

The two-story, 2,200-square-foot house under construction in an empty field outside Smithfield has been in the works for nearly 15 years.

The model home is the first to be built in Benn’s Grant, a mixed-use development that has been bogged down by economic downturns, a developer who bailed midway through the initial project and a community divided by a proposed Walmart Supercenter. Ryan Homes’ model home will be finished within the next 30-45 days, with custom home sales expected to begin by the end of this year, said Aaron Millikin, a senior vice president at East West Communities. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“I’m happy to see some progress,” said landowner Richard Turner. On Friday, he drove his pickup down dirt roads carved across the 253 acres of woods, fields and lakes that will become Benn’s Grant. Lines of dump trucks rolled across the property, slowing to let occasional bulldozers or excavators pass. While the house in under construction, other subcontractors are building roads, storm water drains, water lines and a sewer pump station, Turner said.

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At the front of the site, crews are working on a $5 million, 10-month intersection improvement at Benn’s Church and Brewers Neck boulevards. Approximately $2.5 million will eventually be funded by proffers from developers and landowners connected to Benn’s Grant, St. Luke’s Village and Riverside. The improvements will include lane-widening of both highways, two new traffic signals on Benn’s Church and a connector road that will bypass Benn’s United Methodist Church.

Ryan Homes is the only builder that will be used for the residential component of Benn’s Grant, which will include 240 single-family homes and 40 townhouses built in seven phases, Millikin said.  Eventually, the development will also include 240 apartments, two big box retailers, a hotel and additional commercial/retail space on 70 acres near the front of the property.

The first phase will include 44 single-family homes and 10 townhouses; the second phase, 45 single-family homes and 10 more townhouses, Millikin said. Single-family homes will range from 2,200- to 3,000 square feet, with price points ranging from the low-$200,000s to the low-$400,000s. The three-story townhouses will start in the upper-$190,000s, depending on specific plans and amenities.

The price points will be slightly less than Carrollton’s Eagle Harbor, another project that Ryan Homes and East West Communities partnered on. With the exception of four lots, the subdivision is built out, Millikin said.

As Benn’s Grant gets residential rooftops, it will capture more attention from retail developers, said Trip Ferguson, senior vice president of Harvey Lindsey, the commercial developer handling Benn’s Grant. Although Walmart shelved plans to build a supercenter after the last recession, Isle of Wight remains on their corporate radar, Ferguson said.

“We talk to Walmart about that site every six months or so,” said Ferguson. “While they remain interested, it will be a few years.” The company has begun repositioning itself in some markets, rolling out convenience stores to compete with 7-Elevens, he added.

A retail and real estate research study presented to the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors last June noted that getting a Walmart as an anchor is crucial to attracting other large retailers. Walmart’s presence will trigger interest from other commercial businesses planning to expand in the region.

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Benn’s Grant’s location outside town places it in an ideal location to land big box retailers, such as Kroger or Lowes. Ferguson said. {/mprestriction}