Monday, July 22, 2013

Cranewoods' upscale Woodland Vistas its latest 'fix'

An unfinished development project with commanding views is closer to new life as an upscale townhome community.

On Thursday, Cranewoods Development got approval from the Hamilton County Rural Zoning Commission on a major adjustment to a planned multiple residence district to redevelop the former Gatewood Gardens condominium development into the $12 million, 16-unit Woodland Vistas, which will feature units of between 2,900 and 3,300 square feet and priced between $500,000 and $800,000.

The development, located on a Columbia Township hillside off of Whetsel Avenue, was approved by the Board of County Commissioners in December 2003. Only one of six buildings planned by its original developer was built before the recession hit, and it was not completed.

Andrew Howe, president of Cranewoods Development, closed on the property in December 2012. He's working with CR architecture + design on the design of the new units, as well as the redesign of the existing building.

"As you can see from the photos of the four-unit building that was started, the previous design had a dated, multifamily look," Howe said.

His requested adjustment lowers the amount of planned units on the 3.12-acre site from the original 25 units – later lowered to 19 units – and redesigns the development's street pattern to move the buildings farther north and lessen the amount of paved surfaces. The five new buildings will be reduced in height from three- to four-stories to two stories, and will be arranged to maximize views of the valley below.

An amenity terrace will be built for residents and guests to enjoy the views and will include an arbor, a fire pit, and vintage ‎Hi-Spy binoculars from Niagara Falls. Gas lights will line the private lane and will adorn each entry door.

No hard timeline for construction has been set.

"The timeline will be up to the sales, as I want to allow people to pick their own finishes," Howe said. "It is also the conservative route. I am proceeding as fast as I can with re-plat and getting the scopes worked out to upgrade the existing building exterior."

Although Cranewoods Development is headquartered near Jacksonville, Fla., Howe has local ties. He's a graduate of Wyoming High School and a former employee of Turner Construction and Winegardner and Hammons.

Howe remade himself after finding himself under crushing debt following the Florida real estate crash of October 2006. A November 2010 Engineering News Record article highlighted his reinvention and comeback, dubbing him the "project fixer" and calling him a "poster child of survival".

"I returned to Cincinnati a few years ago to turn around boutique distressed projects," Howe said.

Woodland Vistas will be Howe's fifth project in Cincinnati, and he keeps a condominium Downtown.

His most notable projects include unfinished and defaulted projects at Schoolhouse Lofts in East Walnut Hills and McFarland Lofts Downtown, both of which have been completed and sold out.

He's also received multiple construction and development awards in the state of Florida, even receiving a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States for helping to get Florida state statutes revised to allow for the humane relocation of endangered gopher tortoises from development sites.

Previous reading on BC:
With new ownership, abandoned Downtown condo project could see new life (8/9/10)
Downtown Tour of Living 2008, Part I (10/13/08)