New life is coming to old dreams. That’s everyday business for Bussell Building Inc.
The Springfield-based homebuilder closed Nov. 24 on the sale of 98 available lots in Patriot Place, the residential portion of the largely vacant Jamestown development in Rogersville. The sales price was $1.18 million, according to Greene County officials, and Team 24-7 Realtors of Murney Associates, Realtors brokered the deal.
Bussell Building owner and President Kenny Bussell said the company’s niche is developing residential properties in struggling or stalled subdivisions, and by the first week of December, he said the first building permits at Patriot Place had been submitted.
“It’s been a couple of years that I’ve had it on my radar, but it was just never a feasible project until recently,” he said, adding the removal of the neighborhood improvement district taxes made his investment worthwhile.
Last year, Greene County bought the property in a sheriff’s tax sale, matching the full $13.62 million NID assessment owed by investors. Jamestown developer Stephen Cope worked with the county to secure an NID to fund infrastructure development, which included increased property taxes to pay back the county. But with the onset of the recession, home sales never took off, and an anchor tenant for the commercial component of Jamestown was never secured. With the county’s purchase, the NID was dissolved.
Cope and investors put in about 10 years of work and planning into the mixed-use development and spent at least $4 million, according to Springfield Business Journal archives, but only a strip center, a school and a handful of new homes materialized.
After the Kelby Creek subdivision in Nixa went into foreclosure, Bussell bought the remaining 19 Phase I lots about two years ago for $485,000. Lot sales were sluggish for years at the sprawling subdivision along Highway 160, and developer Jack Stinson saw the writing on the wall in 2009 when he told SBJ he was worried a tight lending environment would make the development challenging.
“I was the first one to purchase any lots out there at the foreclosure,” Bussell said. “We went out there and started seven to 10 houses at one time and drummed up activity. We built and sold those 19 houses in about 18 months.”
A few more houses currently are under construction, and Bussell said second and third development phases are now a possibility.
Perhaps his largest turnaround occurred at Vintage Hills west of the Rutledge-Wilson Farm Community Park.
“Not only was the subdivision foreclosed on, there were probably over 50 foreclosures on homes in the subdivision. It had a large pool, clubhouse and lots of common areas. The homeowners’ association had limited funds, so I had to come in there and pick up the pieces,” Bussell said. “I pulled it out of the deep abyss it was in, and I can’t tell you how many positive comments I’ve gotten from people.”
Originally developed by BT Associates, the first phase had homes approaching $200,000, as well as a clubhouse and a few $300,000-$400,000 homes, said Melissa Davis of Franklin Realtors, the president of Vintage Hills’ homeowners’ association. She’s lived there since 2005.
The development showed promise and was the site of the 2008 St. Jude’s Dream Home. But a partner in BT Associates, Bratz dolls creator Carter Bryant, was involved in a copyright infringement lawsuit by Barbie doll maker Mattel Inc. (NYSE: MAT). Bussell said the suit was eating up Bryant’s money – he reportedly settled out of court for $2 million in 2008 – so BT Associates worked out a deal to give the remaining lots back to lender Great Southern Bank.
Davis said Triple S Properties Inc. came in and built several homes in the lower $100,000 price range. Homeowners became frustrated by the price points, and Triple S also walked away with Vintage Hills in foreclosure.
By 2012 when Bussell came on the scene, she said the subdivision had roughly 125 homes.
Bussell purchased 152 vacant lots and built 80 homes over a two-year period, representing at least $1.25 million in investment. The homes sold for $190,000-$200,000 apiece, and Bussell sold off 72 lots to Sean Coatney of Countryland Homes Inc.
“He got the subdivision back on track where we needed it to be,” Davis said. “We were sad to see him go. We knew Kenny would go from subdivision to subdivision, and he was done building there. We understood that, but we were sad to see him go.”
Vintage Hills now has about 225 homes.
Bussell Building’s home tally now is over 1,000. Other subdivision projects the company’s invested in include Cloverhill Estates in Battlefield, and Angelbrook Estates and New Vista in Republic.
Bussell plans to break ground the week of Dec. 7 on the first of roughly 20 homes about 1,500-1,800 square feet apiece. With homes expected to sell between $140,000 and $180,000 each, he’s targeting a March deadline for half of the speculative homes and completion by summer.
Within four years, Bussell plans to build on all of the Patriot Place lots, each less than a quarter-acre.
Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin said selling the residential lots is a good first step toward recouping as much money as possible for the county.
“The commission is very pleased that a quality home builder such as Bussell Building has the vision and wherewithal to make Jamestown, and Patriot Place, specifically, the wonderful neighborhood we knew it could be,” Cirtin said. “We believe the construction of homes and the improvements that (Missouri Department of Transportation) is doing on Highway 60, will definitely attract a lot of attention by commercial developers. And about 80 percent of the entire value of Jamestown is on the commercial side.”
Forty commercial lots still are available for purchase from the county.
“When people start seeing rooftops,” Cirtin said, “that’s going to attract commercial interest.”
If the $1.18 million residential price represents 20 percent of Jamestown’s value, about $5 million could be expected from selling commercial lots. That would result in a $7 million net loss for the county’s involvement with Jamestown.
But the county still has an option for recovery, as the commercial properties are part of a community improvement district.
“If we don’t have the opportunity to recover our costs with the sale of the lots, we will also utilize the existing CID that is currently in place,” Greene County Administrator Chris Coulter said by email.
Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.
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