From canvas to reality

Sunday, July 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:56 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
An artist’s rendering shows one of the homes being built at the Gates at Old Hawthorne development in Columbia as part of the Thomas Kinkade - Masterpiece Homes series.

Preparation for the construction of the Gates at Old Hawthorne, one of the more interesting neighborhoods in Columbia, began this month.

The neighborhood is the second to be part of the “Thomas Kinkade - Masterpiece Homes” brand of design. What makes these neighborhoods unique is that the designs for the houses are based on Kinkade’s paintings. The homes in Columbia will be part of a larger development located south of Interstate 70, off Route WW, which includes a golf course and a clubhouse.

Plan for Thomas Kinkade homes

Thirty five houses will be considered luxury homes, and their sizes will start at 3,500 to 4,000 square feet. This group of homes will sell for around $700,000 to $1.2 million each. The other 60 homes in the project are executive estates; they’ll be slightly smaller and have fewer amenities.

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Crews are currently working on laying roads and getting water and sewer lines in place. Construction on the houses themselves is scheduled to begin in six weeks and be completed in the spring of 2008.

But how can someone take a house featured in a painting and turn it into a real world home?

Roger Stewart, director of marketing and finance for HST Group LLC, the Idaho group responsible for bringing the Kinkade homes to mid-Missouri, said that’s where the architect’s own creativity comes into play.

Rann Haight, the project’s director of architecture and design, studied at the California Institute of the Arts — the same school Kinkade attended.

“They’re very kindred spirits,” Stewart said.

Stewart said Haight is able to look at one of Kinkade’s paintings and develop theories about how the house is designed. He can take the small portion of the house found in the paintings and visualize what’s behind the windows and where the doors lead.

The group considers 35 of the houses to be luxury homes, which range between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet and sell for around $700,000 to $1.2 million. The remaining 60 homes are called executive estates, which are slightly smaller and have fewer amenities.

The first group of Thomas Kinkade homes is currently under construction in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The homes are being built at a time when the U.S. home market is declining. However, Columbia and Boone County have been able to avoid the national trend. The median price for new single-family homes in Boone County has steadily increased, going from around $136,000 in May 2003 to a little over $188,000 in May of this year. And while the price of new homes is rising, the number of homes being built has decreased from 79 single-family units in May 2003 to 52 this May.

“In general, our home market is good, (but) it’s not as good as last year’s,” said Brent Jones, president of the Columbia Board of Realtors. According to Jones, the present home market is a buyer’s market. The effects of the market are even more apparent in the sale of high-end houses, like the Kinkade homes.

Since there are fewer people who can afford those houses, high-end home sales are hit much harder by changes in the market. More expensive homes stay on the market longer than less expensive homes.

And while Columbia is a little better off than the national market, Jones says the coverage of the national home market by the media has Columbia residents concerned.

“News stories give the idea that the market is homogenous,” Jones said. He cited cities that have experienced extreme home appreciation, and are now experiencing just as extreme depreciation. The Columbia market is relatively stable and hasn’t had the appreciation that other markets have experienced, .

However, market fluctuations are not a concern for HST.

“One of the reasons we came to Columbia is because Columbia’s economy is so strong,” Stewart said. Sales of the Kinkade houses are surpassing the inventory, Stewart added.

At one point, Columbia almost lost the homes to Kansas City. According to Stewart, the group knew they wanted their second location to be in a midwestern city. Steve Torres, director of construction for HST, recommended that the group come and see Columbia. Torres’ son, Matt, also lives in Columbia and works as project manager for Old Hawthorne.

“We have every indication that it was the correct decision,” Stewart said.

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