A new, environmentally safe development is being planned in an area south of Northland Drive on the north side of Columbia. The planned development, which would be on 17 acres that have remained untouched since they were annexed in 1969, is called Bear Creek Village, taking its name from a creek on the southwest corner of the property.
More than 16 acres would be used for housing, condensed to about eight homes per acre to prevent sprawl. These dwellings would include single-family cottages, town homes, lofts and small flats with town homes above them.
Under the plans, commercial development would occupy the remaining land. The plan is to build a coffeehouse, a neighborhood market and a community space with a mail room, laundry room and meeting room, said Karl Kruse, the consultant for the project.
Andrew Guti’s family purchased the property in 1988, and he inherited it from his mother in 1998.
A developer originally wanted to buy the property, but Guti’s wife, Sherri DeRousse, was concerned about what the developer would do with the land, Guti said.
DeRousse had worked as a contractor, and the couple had some general knowledge of the construction industry, so as they got ideas from different people, they decided to build in ways that would protect the environment.
Kruse, a former Fifth Ward councilman, did not develop the plan but was brought in because of his interest in preserving the environment.
The area is an expanse of wooded acres running up against homes on either side.
Across the road are housing complexes, and nearby, closest to Blue Ridge Road, sits Haden Park, a mobile home park.
Development plans for Bear Creek Village include constructing homes from ecological building materials that are also energy-efficient, said Michael Goldschmidt, assistant professor of architectural studies at MU.
A team of Goldschmidt’s graduate students worked in the beginning stages, developing ideas for the buildings. Goldschmidt plans to reduce the overall impact of the units’ energy use on the environment. One way to achieve this is to employ solar power, Goldschmidt said.
Building materials would be nontoxic and recyclable, and the wood would come from quick-growth forests, he said.
Many of the homes along Northland Drivesit farther back from the road. Currently, they face a wooded area, but that could soon change. The plans would put both the residential and commercial buildings close to the road and the existing homes so the rest of the property could remain forested.
There is reason to think that an environmentally minded development might be successful.
The Prairie Crossing community in Grayslake, Ill., was developed in a similar manner about 10 years ago but on a much larger scale. With 675 acres to work with, 60 percent of the space was left open and 357 of the 359 homes in the area have been sold, according to Vicky Ranney, president of Prairie Holdings Co. The homes are designed to be energy-efficient.
“Prairie Crossing works economically,” Ranney said. “Houses have sold for 34 percent more per square inch than comparable homes, so it has been a commercial success. We are delighted to know the idea has been taken up in Columbia.”
Kruse said part of the plan is for residents of Bear Creek to be able to access all areas of Columbia without a car.
They could easily get to the Bear Creek Trail, a few hundred feet away, and walk or ride their bikes to Cosmo or Albert-Oakland Parks.
Northland Drive is also on the orange city bus route, which residents could take southto connect to other bus routes.
Although the development plans are touted as a way to build and to protect the environment at the same time, some residents voiced concerns at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in December.
George Davis, who lives near the planned development site, addressed issues such as possible flooding and whether the current sewage and water systems could handle increased demand.
“I’m just looking for more details about the plans,” Davis said. “The neighbors should always be kept informed.”
He also said he would be willing to accept the development near Bear Creek, and that it might set a new standard in Columbia if it is done responsibly.
The developers’ rezoning request will go before the City Council on Feb. 7.
If the plans are approved, Guti hopes to begin work on Bear Creek Village before the end of the year. Developers will find out if they will have a chance to do it responsibly when the rezoning plans go before City Council Feb. 7.