By MATT BLOIS
Excavators and pickup trucks lined the roads and about a dozen homes are in various stages of construction in the northern section of Tollgate Village.
One construction crew worked on smoothing out concrete on the driveway of a nearly complete house, while another was still framing the basic skeleton for a more recent build.
Tollgate — a planned community with multiple housing types as well as office and commercial space — was a big change for development in the mostly rural Thompson’s Station when it was going through the process in the early 2000s.
The plan for the subdivision first received final approval in 2006 when housing prices were high across the U.S. Later that year, prices plunged nationwide and continued to decline throughout the recession. The first homes in Tollgate started going up in late 2006 and early 2007.
Thompson’s Station Town Administrator Joe Cosentini said all building essentially stopped in 2008 and the next year the property had gone into default. He said a new developer, MBSC TN Home Builders, entered the picture in 2011.
Currently, the subdivision has received approval for 640 single family lots, 61 townhomes, 30 condo units and a 201 unit apartment complex, but not all of those homes exist yet. There are still about 40 acres of undeveloped property in front of the subdivision along Hwy. 31.
Developers have already constructed close to three quarters of all the residences that are currently approved for the subdivision. The apartment building, townhomes and condos have already been built. A little over half of the single family homes approved for the subdivision are ready to be inhabited.
MBSC TN Home Builders is the “master developer” since it acquired Tollgate. It doesn’t actually build the homes. It installs the essential utilities such as water and sewer lines, then sells the lots to home builders. There are currently two companies building homes in Tollgate Village and another developer that would like to.
Crescent Homes and Lennar are responsible for much of the construction in the northern section of the subdivision. Regent Homes already has initial approval to construct three buildings in front of the subdivision that would have restaurants, shops and some housing. The company is also hoping to build some townhomes in the same area.
The president of Regent Homes David McGowan said that he already has heard from several business owners who want to lease some of the commercial space in Tollgate.
“We do have a gentleman who’s interested in putting a Mexican-type restaurant in there and we have a gentlemen looking at putting a Chinese restaurant in there,” he said.
He’s also heard from a coffee shop, a gym and a salon that would like to use the new commercial building once it’s built. He didn’t want to reveal the names of the businesses because they haven’t actually signed a lease yet. In addition to those businesses he’d like to see a sports bar so that people in Tollgate would have a place to watch football or baseball games.
Regent Homes hasn’t convinced Thompson’s Station to make a change to the rules that govern development that would allow the company to build some townhomes in the same area.
The change would have allowed condominiums and apartment buildings in the town’s neighborhood commercial district. The area that Regent Homes wants to buy is currently classified as a neighborhood commercial district.
The engineering company representing Regent Homes also asked the city to allow smaller driveways, smaller lot widths and for residential buildings to cover a large portion of the lot. The Thompson’s Station Planning commission didn’t recommend the changes for approval.
Crescent Homes doesn’t have those same issues because it’s only building single-family homes. It currently owns 37 lots in the subdivision and has 11 homes under construction. Five of those homes will be models that prospective buyers can view and six are homes that have already been sold.
The price for those homes starts in the high $300,000s, but Marla Telfair, a broker for Crescent, said that price can be higher because their homes are so customizable.
“You can deck it out. Just tell us what you want to spend and we’ll help you spend it,” she said. “In Tollgate we have some folks that completely customized their house down to how thick their grout lines are.”
She said giving customers that flexibility is what makes Crescent different from other companies that offer standardized homes.
Crescent first started building homes in Tollgate in December, and it expects to finish its first houses within the next few months. Telfair said Crescent will build out its remaining lots as buyers start to purchase more homes, but it doesn’t plan to buy any more lots in Tollgate.
Lennar Homes reported that it has 41 homesites in the subdivision. Its homes range in price from about $390,000 to $475,000. The company didn’t want to discuss how many homes it has already built or how many it plans to build.