The developers behind the massive Evans Farm community planned in Berlin and Orange townships expect the first residents will move in and first shops will open in summer 2017.

The developers behind the massive Evans Farm community planned in Berlin and Orange townships expect the first residents will move in and first shops will open in summer 2017.

Last weekend, hundreds of visitors walked past hay bales and farm stands packed with free produce to hear more about the project during an open house at Heritage Elementary School. Street and utility construction for the neighborhood's first phase -- planned northeast of the Lewis Center Road railroad crossing -- is scheduled to begin in July.

Daniel Griffin, a partner in Evans Farm Land Development Co., said the turnout was "incredible" but not unexpected. He said excitement about the new community had been growing as the proposal worked its way through the zoning process in Orange Township.

"I knew (people) would want to come and put deposits down and be a part of it," he said.

Orange Township trustees in March approved new zoning for 550 acres of farmland that will be transformed into a mixed-use development featuring about 950 single-family houses, multifamily buildings and commercial districts. The full project will encompass about 1,250 acres in Berlin and Orange townships.

A plan for hundreds of adjacent acres to the north in Berlin Township has not been finalized, but developer Tony Eyerman said the plan is to make Evans Farm a "seamless community" with a similar mix of amenities, businesses, greenspace and housing in each township.

The developers have said the project will follow the tenets of New Urbanism, a design movement focused on walkable communities with varied business and residential uses. The developers have discussed amenities ranging from an agricultural-education center to an outdoor pool complex and a YMCA building as likely additions to the site.

Guidelines for single-family houses will call for big front porches, located close to the street, and hidden garages. Businesses and recreation areas will be built within walking distance of residences.

The first phase of the project will feature 142 single-family houses and a commercial district north of Lewis Center Road, east of Olentangy High School.

The developers have not announced what businesses will occupy the commercial districts, but Griffin has said the focus will be on local restaurants and shops. He said medical buildings and office spaces also are expected to open within Evans Farm.

One businessman who expects to be a part of Evans Farm from early on is Preston Runyon, owner of the Pizza Cabin, located off U.S. Route 23 in Orange Township.

Runyon said he wants to open a yet-to-be-named "family pizzeria" in the new neighborhood. He said he was interested in the project as soon as he heard about it.

"The more I see and the more I read, the happier I am to be involved," he said.

Runyon said he's excited for the Lewis Center area to gain a central gathering place, which he said will be great for businesses and residents alike.

Prospective residents currently are able to reserve the right to select lots in the first phase of the development. Forty-two people had put $1,000 down to reserve the right to select a lot by the end of the Sunday, May 22, open house.

Residents will gather on a "lot selection day" later this summer to choose where they want to build in the community.

The developers have selected 14 custom-home builders that will work with prospective residents in the community.

Lot prices in the first phase will start at $62,000. While prospective residents will control their own design and construction budgets, the developers have said they expect home prices will start in the high $300,000s.