Orange Township's massive Evans Farm development is in its infancy, but the project already has resulted in more than 100 "spoken-for" houses and the right to host the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio's 2019 Parade of Homes, set July 13-28.

Daniel Griffin, a partner in Evans Farm Land Development Co. along with Tony Eyerman, said all but 19 of Evans Farm's first 142 units have been claimed by either builders or individuals.

Those 142 units, still being built, represent the first portion of a neighborhood of 2,182 single-family homes planned to be constructed over the course of 10 years in the 1,250-acre development.

Griffin said he wasn't surprised to see so much interest in them, but said he's been thrilled by the response.

"It's been an incredible run so far," he said.

The central stretch of those homes, situated just north of Lewis Center Road to the east of the railroad tracks in Orange Township, will serve as the site for the 2019 Parade of Homes.

According to a BIA release, the site was chosen to host the event because it's the only development in central Ohio being designed around the principles of New Urbanism, the idea that neighborhoods should be walkable and blend many types of housing and businesses in close quarters.

Executive Director Jon Melchi said in the release that the project is in keeping with the association's efforts in "showcasing innovation and the latest trends by the home-building community of central Ohio."

"The 2019 Parade of Homes at Evans Farm continues that fine tradition by showcasing Ohio's first community built in the style of New Urbanism," he said.

For Griffin and Eyerman, the Parade of Homes serves as reinforcement that their plan is working. The sites in this section of the development largely are situated on smaller lots -- most between 40 and 55 feet wide. But the houses on those lots will be valued up to $450,000, which Griffin said changes the way people view a smaller property.

"I think the (BIA) as a whole felt like this was a unique place for people to come to see options they can actually afford," Griffin said. "The smaller lots are a bigger hit than anybody in this area thought they'd be."

Eyerman, who leads the conceptual designs for the development, said the goal with the first batch of houses and beyond was to put in more work for a better product. He said features such as required front porches and garages placed on the back sides of houses help facilitate that quality.

"If you're going to do something, you may as well do it really well," he said.

Getting there

With 142 houses in progress, the developers are eyeing the next portions of their work.

By the end of 2018, Griffin said construction will start on brick townhouses at the front of the development. By March, the commercial sites to the south of the property will start rising. Next will come 129 more houses to the north of the first 142.

To facilitate all those new homes – and the hundreds planned to follow – Delaware County will need to catch up on the area's infrastructure.

Griffin and Eyerman said they're now happy with the state of sanitary sewers, which slowed down the project over the last year, but the county will work to bring nearby roads up to speed.

Delaware County Economic Development Director Bob Lamb said the county is working with the developers on a non-school 20-year, 75 percent tax-increment financing agreement for the commercial portion of Evans Farm that will fund nothing but infrastructure in the area. Lamb said those funds will go toward improvements on Lewis Center and Old State roads, as well as "other key transportation improvements" in the area.

"We think that's a great deal for the community overall," he said. "Transportation is one of the key development needs for our community.

"We've done a great job of it in the past, but as our population continues to grow, demand continues to increase on our roadways."

Griffin said those road improvements not only will help the surrounding portions of Delaware County, but will show the developers are committed to being "part of the community."

He said they were told "the roads are just fine" when they began the process, but a traffic study early on showed that was far from the case.

"If you can solve that, you can solve everything," he said.

For that reason, Griffin said he sees participating in the TIF agreement as his due diligence in the community at large.

"Internally, our Evans Farm roads are incredible," he said. "It's how we're perceived externally and how it affects the rest of the community."

In Griffin's estimation, that's what separates Evans Farm from other developments. He said he wants to create something lasting that becomes a focal point of Delaware County.

"It's not about the money. It can't be," he said. "If it were, you'd just build a big subdivision. It's about leaving a mark on the community."

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