New builder found for Freeman Place homes

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Wilson city officials have moved forward on establishing a partnership with a new homebuilder for the Freeman Place neighborhood.

“A group of our staff toured one of their homes that was built in Raleigh, and we were impressed with the quality of construction,” Wilson Planning and Community Development Manager John Morck said during a recent city Redevelopment Committee meeting. “They told us they can replicate what is out there with Wade Jurney Homes, so we feel this is the best opportunity to roll forward without any interruptions. We’re excited.”

Champion Realty and Investments owner Eric Edwards already was connected with the project, marketing the 29 homes Wade Jurney built in 18 months, but when the builder was bought, the city needed to find a new company to develop the remaining 12 lots along Manchester Street. City staff recommended continuing the relationship with Edwards, who is a Wilson native, and bringing Squared Corners owner Jansen Mitchell in to construct the affordable houses.

Mitchell presented Councilmen Logan Liles and Michael Bell, who are on the redevelopment panel, with the plans for two models of two-story houses and a ranch being pitched for the project. The layouts will be available for roughly $100,000 with the city transferring three lots at a time to Mitchell to build.

Bell asked whether Mitchell might employ some local subcontractors on the project, and the builder said they will be considered.

“Local labor enhances the project greatly and enhances the buy-in from the community,” Bell said. “Someone from out of town might have pride for their community, but not the same as locals building homes in Wilson. I like the idea that you’ll use the qualified, competent labor force we have.”

The council members asked which lots would be constructed first, and Edwards said contractors will build one near the intersection with Nash and another near Hines to allow drivers on both streets to see progress happening at Freeman Place.

The city-led development has encountered a myriad of challenges through the years. Originally, several builders were on board with constructing affordable housing in the neighborhood, but the recession slowed progress. In 2016, a Raleigh-based nonprofit was brought to the table, but financing issues dissolved that deal in 2017. Wade Jurney hopped on board in 2017 and made significant progress until being bought by a national builder and pulled from projects across North Carolina.

All 29 homes that Wade Jurney constructed have been sold, with the final house closing later this month.

“I want to bring that beauty to the community, and that is what we’ve done in the area,” Bell said. “I’m confident in what our staff has seen with Squared Corners, so I’m 100% good with this.”

Before the builder can get to work, the Wilson City Council will have to approve the development agreement. Once it’s approved, construction would get underway in the coming months.