It was a perfect fit. One wanted an elite golf course. The other wanted an exclusive residential community.
So when former MU golfer Jeff Whitfield in the late 1990s presented to Columbia developer Billy Sapp his idea for a new golf course where the MU teams could play, their ideas quickly became a unified plan. And after several years of hard work and negotiations, the Community at Old Hawthorne is on track to become an anchor development on Columbia’s east side.
“Billy had a picture where we knew from day one we would have both elements,” said Whitfield, who will be general manager for the Old Hawthorne golf course, which is scheduled to open May 19. The 220-acre course will be one of the main attractions of the area, which also features upscale homes and condominiums.
Course designer Art Schaupeter said one of the special things about the development is the way the residential part of the subdivision is juxtaposed with the course.
“The thing that’s nice for both aspects is the golf course is on the lower levels and the homes are on the upper levels,” Schaupeter said. Homeowners will be able to look down through their windows without worrying about golf balls shattering their windows or duffers taking divots from their yards.
Whitfield said another nice attribute of the community is that it’s accessible to a wide range of people, but the prices of homes in the neighborhood definitely aren’t bottom-rung. Jerry Blaise, a Realtor from ReMax who worked with the developers, said the prices for individual houses in Old Hawthorne start at about $300,000, while the least expensive lots sell for $65,000. Whitfield said condominiums that sell for $100,000 are the lowest-priced homes in the area. The upper price range for houses will be more than $1 million.
Also, large residential lots have been sold for three distinct styles of condovilla townhouse communities — developed by John Welek, John Hansman and Don Stohldrier, all of Columbia — that will have a combined 500 units.
Blaise said the owners of some custom homes, which should be done in about a month, will be able to move in within 30 to 60 days. Whitfield said Old Hawthorne might even see its first residents within the next couple of weeks.
“The golf course lots have sold quite quickly, but across the board we’ve actually sold a little bit of everything,” Blaise said.
While Blaise said 80 percent to 85 percent of all the subdivision’s land that has been offered has been sold, Whitfield noted that a lot of that land has been sold to secondary developers who might not have resold all the property yet. Whitfield did, however, say that the single-family homes are selling far more quickly than what was originally projected. The initial plans were to make the homes available and sell them over a period of 10 to 12 years.
“About 40 percent of our single-family lots have been sold in about a year,” Whitfield said. He added that about half of the individual lots have not been made available.
In the northwest corner of the property, HST Group, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is designing homes that will strive to emulate the work of Thomas Kinkade, the renowned artist whose paintings featuring picturesque homes earned him the moniker of the “Painter of Light.”
For all the differences in the homes, one similarity will separate them from every other neighborhood in Missouri: Old Hawthorne will be the first development in the state to offer a fiber-optic feed to every home, putting residents’ cable television, telephone and Internet services into one package. CenturyTel will provide the services.
“I think people will really enjoy it,” Whitfield said. “For example, one of the things that it can provide for you is much greater Internet speed, much greater bandwidth.”
It will also allow “smart-home” technology that enables residents to access or activate computers, garage doors, sprinklers and other home features while away.
Whitfield added that more single-family homes should become available sometime next year on the southeast side of the property, as well as on the west side when Rolling Hills Road is extended along the west edge of the property.
Dallas Christianson, membership director for the golf course, said about 100 people have already paid their club initiation fees. He also noted that residents will benefit from three commercial lots that will be developed as a neighborhood commercial area. Whitfield said deals are in the works to bring banks, retail shops and restaurants to the area.
“There is nothing like this in the area,” Christianson said of Old Hawthorne’s future ability to support itself.
The project got some help in 2001, when Whitfield and majority owner Sapp joined forces with PGA member Gary Mitchell, who had experience in developing a golf and residential area from his work on Rivercut in Springfield.
The development, however, hasn’t been without its setbacks. It took quite a while to get a voluntary annexation of the 600-plus acres through Columbia’s City Council. The first petition for annexation came to the council in December 2004, but petitions from residents of the nearby Harg community twice caused delays. Harg residents were primarily concerned about the danger of increased traffic on Route WW, a narrow two-lane highway with no shoulders.
Former Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash said the annexation was finally approved in July 2005 when the developers established a timeline for improving Route WW by adding shoulders, traffic lights and turn lanes.
“Considering how huge it was, it actually went pretty well,” Ash said.
Whitfield said the rapid development of Old Hawthorne has exceeded all expectations. He attributes that, in part, to word of mouth, frequent tours of the land and the early construction of a loop road that allowed people to check out the property. Interest in the commercial property has been particularly high.
“Our expectation was that (it) would be something we would develop later, but there’s been so much interest,” Whitfield said. “There’s about 20 acres, and it’s all been spoken for.”
Whitfield said the developers will maintain some architectural control over the commercial part of the subdivision.
Gary Evans, a member of the Club at Old Hawthorne, is excited about the prospect of playing on “the best golf course in all of Central Missouri” and living in the neighborhood. He’s bought a lot overlooking the 17th tee, and he expects building for his house to start this fall. He can’t wait to move into Old Hawthorne.
“I think it’s going to be a fine addition to the city of Columbia,” Evans said.