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In the midst of a winter mini-thaw, the gooey brown earth on a site in the city of Oregon wraps shoes and car tires in an unwanted cloak of thick mud.
But if builder Dave Stout and his partners get their way, the property along Seaman Road near Wynn Road will soon be the site of an upscale subdivision, with houses approaching $300,000, yards with sprinkler systems, and a natural look with little vinyl siding.
The Drake is one of at least eight subdivisions under way or planned for the eastern Toledo suburb that has often been overlooked by developers focused on westward and northward expansion the past three decades. The subdivisions have the potential to add 260 houses or more.
"That's a lot of potential development for Oregon," said Michael Rudey, commissioner of building and zoning.
For years, say boosters, residential development in the 19,000-resident city on Maumee Bay has been inhibited by access issues, concerns about odors from two nearby oil refineries, and a long-standing bias among people born in West Toledo and its western suburbs against moving across the Maumee River.
"The East side always got a bad rap," said Mr. Stout, the builder-developer.
But a confluence of events is prompting home-buyers and developers to take another look at Oregon. The new Veterans' Glass City Skyway on I-280 will replace an oft-congested Craig Bridge in late 2006, improving access.
Pearson Park, a mostly unspoiled woodlands operated by Toledo Metroparks, is set to double in size to 600 acres. A network of bicycle paths connecting Pearson and the waterfront Maumee Bay State Park, also in Oregon, is nearing completion.
Ongoing extension of Oregon's sewer system has opened hundreds of acres of agricultural land to large-scale residential development, builders noted.
Developer Marty Bihn said several of the new subdivisions are a direct result of the completion of a leg of the expansion in August, 2003. "That has been the key," he said.
He is developing the Vineyard, on Seaman near Wynn, further east than the Drake. The first phase, begun about 1 1/2 years ago, includes 24 lots, with plans for an eventual 200 lots. The subdivision, where houses are expected to be priced at $180,000 to $260,000, is targeted at families with children. But it also includes condominiums aimed at empty-nesters. Lots are about $35,000.
The Vineyard, like many of the new developments, is far enough from the refineries that they are not an issue, Mr. Bihn said.
Among buyers is Ticia McGee, a loan officer at a mortgage bank, and her husband David, who sells industrial products. They break the stereotype of the Oregon buyer as people with links to that city or East Toledo.
Neither has lived east of the Maumee. Mrs. McGee, 27, is from Erie, Mich., but most recently commuted to her job in Monroe from South Toledo. Her husband, 33, resides in Delta.
"My husband and I looked all over west Toledo, Sylvania, and other suburbs," she said. "We liked Oregon because of its location, lower taxes, and decent schools."
The couple, who are expecting their first child in May, plan to close next week on a two-story home in the Vineyard with four bedrooms and 2,200 square feet. They are happy that a new, larger I-280 bridge will make their commute easier, but aren't pleased that the expressway will be closed seven months during construction.
"The area seems quiet," she said. "But there is a lot of development going on, and that will be good for our property value down the road."
Because the subdivisions are only now gaining momentum and aren't being filled all at once, construction activity has been steady in Oregon. Builders continue to take out 80 to 90 residential permits a year, said the city's Mr. Rudey.
And Oregon remains one of Toledo's most affordable suburbs, with the median price of an existing home in 2004 at $125,800, down 5 percent in a year, sales figures from the Lucas County auditor's office show.
The Drake includes three man-made ponds and space for 42 houses. Mr. Stout said he will begin paving roads when the weather breaks. Lots, at $40,000 to $50,000, should be ready for houses in early spring, he said. Houses are expected to be in the $275,000 range. Deed restrictions will set a minimum size of 2,200 square feet.
At the huge Eagle's Landing golf development, bounded by Wynn, Bay Shore, and Stadium roads, work is beginning on a next phase of 17 lots. The subdivision, which will eventually include 200 home sites, is nearly half finished. Not all the lots have houses yet, however.
Developer Mark Rigg said activity in the subdivision picked up last year after a "sluggish" period. "It was one of the better years we've had," he added. Houses range from $200,000 to $320,000.
Other projects include:
Jason Druckenmiller and his wife, Kelly are pleased with their decision to build in Haley Hollow last June. At a quarter acre, their lot is nice-sized, he said.
The development is well-situated, said Mr. Druckenmiller, a 24-year-old Oregon police officer. "It's a half mile from an elementary school, a middle school, and Pearson Park," he explained. Shopping is nearby.
"It's central to anything I need to get to."
Contact Gary Pakulski at: email@example.com or 419-724-6082.