EAST COUNTY — By now, the story behind University Park’s founding is familiar, but its beginnings help explain why the development has waited so long to fully build out.
In late May, the development team at University Park broke ground on its first new phase in seven years — Lansdowne Crescent, a European-inspired neighborhood with 19 home sites. It is named after a traditional community in London.
The neighborhood, which backs onto hole No. 3 of the golf course, will feature 60-foot lots, with homes from 2,300 to 2,800 square feet and priced from $400,000 to $750,000.
“This size has been a successful offering for us,” said Charles Varah, partner representative for University Park. “It is perfect for the retired couple who is looking to downsize and the people who want a vacation home.”
An architectural committee full of University Park residents and architects approved the plan before it became official.
This week, construction crews will ready the roadway, before installing utilities such as sewer and drainage.
A landscaped half-acre park area will be the centerpiece of the neighborhood.
Homes will fall into the neoclassical look of University Park’s existing sites, with three-part windows and blank walls.
“Good architectural design looks special and costs nothing,” Varah said.
Buyers get two options for their home: a house with a master suite and two bedrooms or a house with a master suite, two bedrooms and a den.
A model home will be completed by November, Varah said.
He hopes to sell out the community in two years.
The new section, to be built exclusively by John Neal Homes, follows a period of restraint during a once-booming housing market.
Rolf Pasold, an Austrian-born British manufacturer of children’s clothing, teamed with Neal Communities founder and President Pat Neal in November 1980, to buy the land where University Park sits.
They held off on developing the property for a decade, waiting for development along University Parkway to match their ambitions.
Home sales began in 1991, and Pasold began to focus on University Park’s core attributes, features Lansdowne Crescent will maintain.
The award-winning community is known for its pristine and natural look, marked by preservation and spaced-apart homes set far back from the golf course.
Before he died in January 2006, Pasold refused to sell many of the remaining home sites, to preserve their natural beauty.
Varah, a lifelong friend of Pasold’s son, Colin, said the founder’s restraint helped the development survive the real-estate bubble.
“The crisis put pressure on the development to finish the project,” Varah said. “The market was so greedy. When you have excess homes, it makes it harder to manage and it becomes an out-of-scale product.”
Two years ago, talks about Lansdowne Crescent began. At that time, developers decided to wait longer, refine their plans and wait for demand to gain steam.
“Like any economic program, when demand picks up and there’s low inventory, you make supply to meet it,” Varah said. “Now, the market is ready.”
With 1,165 homes in University Park sold so far, the development caps at 1,238, according to its development of regional impact.
Homebuyers may have to wait for that cap to be reached.
“Rolf (Pasold) liked to call his vision ‘European inspiration, American achievement,’” Varah said. “He said in 50 years, University Park would be the place to be.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].