The future of 1,000 acres of farmland near the border of Berlin and Orange townships is a residential and business center that echoes the past.

The future of 1,000 acres of farmland near the border of Berlin and Orange townships is a residential and business center that echoes the past.

Evans Farm Land Development Co. is engaged in Orange Township's zoning process in regard to about 550 acres just east of Olentangy High School between Lewis Center Road and the township's northern border. The firm also eventually plans to develop about 450 acres farther north in Berlin Township.

Evans Farm was founded more than 50 years ago by the late Arthur "Sam" Loos, former chairman of Evans Capital Corp. Tony Eyerman, a partner in Evans Farm Land Development Co. with Daniel Griffin, said the family that owns Evans Farm came to him about six years ago to discuss the future of the site.

"They'd been approached for many, many years by developers around wanting to just buy it and turn it into typical housing, and that was not what the family's interests were," he said. "The family vision was to create a community that's different from every other subdivision or community in Delaware County and in central Ohio."

Eyerman said the family eventually agreed to see the farm developed using the principles of the New Urbanism design movement. Proponents of New Urbanism call for walkable communities with diverse residential and commercial uses, drawing inspiration from pre-World War II cities and towns.

"It's finding the good traits of older communities and bringing them forward," Eyerman said.

Griffin said he envisions the development as "an all-walkable community where people can finally get out of their cars and not have to get back in them." He said the amount of open and green space in the community -- about 35 percent -- should set it apart from other developments in the area.

The developers said another hallmark of the community will be large, usable front porches on houses that sit close to the streets.

Eyerman said he drew inspiration locally from Old Worthington, Uptown Westerville and the Columbus neighborhoods of Clintonville, German Village and the Short North. Examples of similar planned communities outside of Ohio include Celebration, Fla., near Orlando, Cherry Hill, Mich., and Denver's Stapleton neighborhood.

Eschewing Easton

Town centers with offices and other commercial uses are planned for sites within the development in both townships.

Griffin said the focus will be on small businesses, such as bakeries, ice-cream parlors and two-screen theaters, not big-box stores. He said he also envisions community gardens, farmers markets and restaurants serving dishes with local ingredients in the community.

"It's really an old village center," he said. "It's not a town center as we've grown to know (such as) the Eastons and Polarises."

With approval from Orange Township, construction on interior roadways could start in the fall. Development in Berlin Township could be several years off.

"There's an old axiom that you eat a whale one bite at a time, (and) 1,000-plus acres is a whale," Eyerman said.

Despite the community's proximity to Delaware's southeastern boundary in Berlin Township, the developers said they do not plan to request annexation into the city in the future.

A development plan filed in Orange Township calls for about 950 homes north of the town center. The developers have not yet established the number of homes planned for the Berlin Township land.

Griffin said the structures forming Orange Township's village center off Lewis Center Road at the southern edge of the site likely will be among the first buildings constructed. He said it's important to him to have active businesses on-site to assure potential residents the commercial aspect of the project is not a pipe dream.

"Because of the growth that has happened out here, we have about nine businesses ready to go in and start this village," he said.

Trustees 'excited'

While the project has yet to go before Orange Township's trustees for a vote, all three said they like what they've heard about the development so far.

Trustee Rob Quigley said he thinks the developers have "a great concept."

"Ever since I've been a trustee, all I've ever heard from people is the township doesn't have an identity ... or a place to gather," Quigley said, adding he hoped the development might change that situation.

Trustee Debbie Taranto called the project "very exciting" and said it could be a "feather in Orange Township's cap."

"I think the township will have the kind of town center people have always wanted," she said.

Unlike developments in which homebuilders construct houses on speculation or buy up multiple tracts, individual buyers will be in control of their lots at Evans Farm, Griffin said.

"You buy it and you pick out of a group of custom builders that we've pre-approved to build," he said. "It really puts everything back in the consumers' hands, which is sort of hard to find nowadays."

Builders will not be allowed to duplicate designs within the community.

Eyerman said the market will determine whether apartments or senior housing eventually will be built within the community. He said all buildings on the site will need to meet the strict architectural guidelines of the community.

"What we've asked for from the zoning commission and from the townships is: Allow us a palette of permitted uses that would fit in this community," he said.

The range of housing options, along with 10 different lot sizes for single-family houses, is expected to attract residents from multiple age groups.

Developers will set aside a space for an Olentangy Local School District elementary school near the oval -- a site envisioned as a central gathering and concert space southeast of Shanahan Road's intersection with Piatt Road.