Fresh off the success of the pre-completion sellout of all 14 homes in their multifamily infill community Fairview Row in Raleigh, N.C., Beacon Street Development has a new project called The Wade in the works just a few blocks away. Jim Wiley, president of Beacon Street Development, talked with us this month to discuss their overall philosophy and approach to their projects, what went so right with Fairview Row, and how they’re incorporating that into The Wade.
Builder & Developer (B&D): Can you give us a little background on Beacon Street?
Jim Wiley (JW): Our background: we started out in more of a master-planning, community type of development, where we were building new urban neighborhoods, trying to recreate the great aspects of these older neighborhoods in new versions. In particular, I’m thinking of a community called Meadowmont in Chapel Hill, which was a great experience. It’s led us to approach all of our projects from a planning aspect primarily, knowing that if you can’t build a great street, or build on an existing great street, that you’re defeating the purpose.
B&D: Was this what initially drew you to the location for Fairview?
JW: I actually used to live just a few blocks away from it. But the neighborhoods we build in, they’re like these. Our Moss Landing project, which is in Washington, N.C., is a wonderful older coastal community on the Pamlico River and it’s actually the town that my dad is from and I spent all my summers and other things down there. So, we’re building in neighborhoods that we love and doing our best to give back to where we live. On the side of sustainability, you can’t emphasize enough how infill allows you to leverage existing infrastructure, and if you design the right way, you’re adding and increasing density for your city with really limited impact. And at the same time, because of the location and the design of these buildings, it really encourages walking, and that contributes to that lowered impact, on the environment and on city infrastructure, not to mention it’s just a healthier lifestyle for the people who live there.
B&D: How do these concepts play out in Fairview Row and The Wade?
JW: Everything we’ve learned from Fairview is just going to parlay over into The Wade. Even with everything we love about the historic neighborhoods of Raleigh, I would say that in the inspiration for these projects really comes from larger cities, or at least cities that historically already had more density in them.
B&D: In what ways in particular?
JW: Great design, great quality. But then there was the depression, and the introduction of the car, and those both changed building. What we’ve learned after going through all of developments since the depression and since cars and other things, there were a lot of logical things that happened and still do, in suburbs and other areas, but there are a lot of wonderful things to be learned from these early neighborhoods, whether we recreate them from scratch or add to existing ones (which is probably our higher passion: to be part of the existing city and allow it to evolve to the new needs and the new people that are moving in and as our city grows). The interesting bit that gets into the challenge of Fairview is that we were very inspired by classical buildings and not many people have attempted to build a new version of them. Building the new type of these buildings in today’s age is different than the way it would have been built 100 years ago. These are steel and concrete buildings and we infill them with wood as if we were building a single-family home, which gave them great flexibility with design and, from the interior, if you didn’t know any better, you might think you were standing in a single-family home. But the overall commercial quality of the structure this creates, not to mention the safety aspect with the addition of fire-sprinkler systems and the elevator access that creates single-floor living environments for aging in place, these sort of things started off as challenges and became benefits for the project; now they have the beauty of an older building but with all the modern amenities.
B&D: So the overall strategy with The Wade follows the model of Fairview Row with these same ideas?
JW: Yes, it sure does. We’ve actually worked within the existing zoning like we did with Fairview and The Wade is only about a mile or so away from the Fairview site, just on the other side of the neighborhood facing a different village called Cameron Village. Like with Fairview, we’ve been sensitive to the buildings around us. They’re a little bit bigger in this case, so The Wade is a five-story building with 25 homes and it feels a little more substantial in a single building. Both of these sites total about one acre, not much more. But in the case of The Wade, because of the particular surroundings, it just allows for, even in zoning, a little more density there. For us, the site provided opportunities to get creative, like the slope of the lot which allowed us to bring parking up under the buildings and do some other things we couldn’t at Fairview. But it will feel just as appropriate in that location as Fairview does in its. The spot just calls for something a bit more substantial and a little more a landmark type building.