Company eyes national expansion as it announces plan for Mayview site
October 7, 2016 12:00 AM
Rob Bowman, president of Charter Homes & Neighborhoods, explains that certain materials were cleaned up and will be recycled.
Standing on future Fairfield Park property, Rob Bowman explains that 78 acres will be donated to South Fayette.
Looking down at Mayview Road from the future Fairview Park property.
Railroad tracks that passed Hastings Station and wrap around the future Hastings neighborhood.
The former Mayview State Hospital site in South Fayette.
Rob Bowman, president of Charter Homes & Neighborhoods, at the former Mayview State Hospital site in South Fayette.
By Amy Philips-Haller
After visiting sites all over the country, a Lancaster, Pa., developer has chosen the Pittsburgh region to launch its national expansion, unveiling plans for its latest neighborhood here.
“We wanted to find a larger community who would really value this platform,” Rob Bowman, president of Charter Homes & Neighborhoods, said of the company’s Great American Neighborhood concept. “After looking all over the country, we realized it was Pittsburgh.”
The company plans to build its sixth Great American Neighborhood in the region next year on the former Mayview State Hospital site in South Fayette.
Citing recent growth in sections of the Pittsburgh region along with the addition of high-tech companies such as Google and Uber, Mr. Bowman called the a fertile ground for new ideas.
“People are thoughtful, they want to make their communities better, no matter where they stand. That is the magic of Pittsburgh,” he said in an interview.
The formula for the Great American Neighborhood is based on a concept to incorporate character and context with community, customizing each development on a community-by-community basis. It replaces traditional suburban subdivisions with neighborhoods that blend proximity to shops, outdoor life, time-proven architectural principals, multi-generational housing options and a range of housing prices.
“The model for suburbs is broken,” Mr. Bowman said. “In the city you can step outside and walk down to the coffee shop, but in the suburbs you have to drive there. Urban cores in the old villages and towns are really becoming valued for the character and opportunity that it brings to people.” The Great American Neighborhood provides similar amenities outside of urban settings.
“The industry went through a period of time where housing development was a product-driven business, and not a people-driven business. We’re just refocusing on people,” Mr. Bowman said.
With each Great American Neighborhood development, Charter follows a simple process. First, identify the story of the land, which can include the physical makeup as well as the history of the property. Second, provide options for people to easily come together for something as simple as a cup of coffee. Third, create outdoor space for residents to connect with the community.
Charter has built five Great American Neighborhoods in the region — in Moon, Cranberry, Sewickley, Mt. Lebanon and the Venetia section of Peters — and plans to announce more in the coming months. Each of the developments aims to suit the particular needs of its community.
For example, in Mt. Lebanon, where storefronts line Washington and Beverly roads, the Summit neighborhood design was created for residents to take advantage of the walking community that already exists there.
In South Fayette, however, the neighborhood, which will be called Hastings, will have a completely different site plan to suit the needs of the township.
Hastings is named after Hastings Station, a one-time train stop along the track located on the border of Upper St. Clair and South Fayette, where it intersects with Mayview Road. The land was originally occupied by Massachusetts native and Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Hastings, who purchased the property in 1799. It remained in the family for generations. Mayview, which was called Marshalsea when it opened in the early 1890s, eventually became a state psychiatric hospital and closed in 2008. The current landowners, Pittsburgh-based Aloe Brothers LLC, purchased the property from the state in 2010 for $505,000. Charter Homes is expected to finalize the purchase by the end of the year.
The Hastings development will sit on about 180 acres between Boyce-Mayview Park and Fairview Park.
About 78 acres of the Mayview property is slated to be added to the township’s Fairview Park.
The first phase of construction is to include a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and apartments; a bike path and sledding hill; two acres of green space, called Hastings Green, for residents’ use; and locally owned businesses such as a yoga studio, coffee shop or salon in a section called Hastings Crossroads. In a later phase, TerraPark, an all-natural playground, is planned.
In addition to preserving the property’s history by naming the neighborhood after previous landowners, Mr. Bowman intends to preserve numerous trees as well as cobblestones that were discovered under an existing asphalt road.
“We surveyed every tree on this property and literally designed the streets and the homes around them,” he said. The neighborhood will include Sycamore Lane, the resurrected cobblestone road that will be lined on both sides with 100-year-old sycamore trees. Homes will line only one side of the lane, facing front. The other side of the lane will remain green space.
“At Charter, we say, ‘We never turn our backs to a community,’ so every time you drive by a Charter Great American Neighborhood, you will never see the back of a house,” Mr. Bowman said.
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