An ambitious plan to create a 3,000-home “new urbanism” community in eastern Jackson County will get a small start Friday at Truman Road just east of Little Blue Parkway.
Homes by Whittaker, a company that intends to replicate the New Town at St. Charles development near St. Louis, will hold an 11 a.m. groundbreaking to launch a similar concept, named New Town at Harmony, in Independence.
The project’s first phase calls for 80 homes on 15 acres in the Little Blue River valley.
Project leader Greg Whittaker proposes up to 600 housing units on 130 acres that Homes by Whittaker has purchased from the Community of Christ, which has its headquarters in Independence. He said his company has options to buy a total of 600 acres from the church, which owns about 3,000 acres in the valley.
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The New Town at Harmony development, if built out over 25 years as envisioned, could inject $1 billion in total investment into the area.
“This is almost an infill housing area,” Whittaker said. “It’s closer to downtown than a lot of new residential developments in eastern Jackson County. The area was just opened up for development when Blue Valley Parkway opened.”
The concept of new urbanism, introduced in Seaside, Fla., in the 1980s, creates neighborhoods designed to reduce reliance on driving by providing walkable retail services, parks, sidewalks, trails and other amenities within housing communities.
Whittaker took the concept to St. Charles, starting in 2005. The company has built 1,500 homes there in the last 10 years.
“We’ve developed 15 traditional neighborhoods — big projects over 1,000 homes — in long-term projects,” Whittaker said. “New Town is different from most in that it has zoning code approval for live/work units, where people can have offices or retail on the first floor and live above it. Most residential zoning doesn’t allow that.”
If the weather cooperates, Whittaker said, he hopes to have the first residents living in New Town at Harmony by spring 2017.
Plans call for housing in a range of sizes and price points — $180,000 to more than $400,000 — in the development.
“We want this to be a mixed-income development,” Whittaker said. “At St. Charles we have everything from cottages to big houses.”
Homes by Whittaker is serving as the developer and builder on the project, but Whittaker said they welcome participation from Kansas City area builders too.
He said he expects the development to attract all generations but particularly notes that the Blue Springs school district has plans to build a new elementary school within the New Town boundaries.