Baldwin — A builder of custom homes is buying property from Baker University to make way for another 40 "upscale" residences in northern Baldwin.
Michael C. Green considers 53 acres north of Baldwin High School to be the perfect home for his next housing development.
Even if the land is owned by Baker University.
"This country out here is beautiful," said Green, a Baldwin developer who has a contract to buy the property. "We're surrounded by nature preserves. All around it are beautiful rolling hills."
And on the property will go 40 new homes, on lots ranging from a half-acre to a full acre and selling for $35,000 to $45,000.
The new homes will sell for at least $250,000, drawing on a market dominated by Lawrence residents who have grown weary of living in a "big city" where the housing dollar doesn't go as far.
City officials in Baldwin say the town has 3,500 residents, while Lawrence city officials count more than 80,000 people.
"It's mostly Lawrence people moving down here," Green said. "There's a lot of commuting going on, and people are looking for a little different environment from the crowded subdivisions.
"In recent years there's been a lot of migration to the country. This land may be in the city of Baldwin, but it's surrounded by all these timbered, rolling hills. It has a country flavor to it."
Construction is expected to begin this fall, said Green, owner of M.C. Construction Inc. and a Realtor for Stephens Real Estate in Baldwin. He plans to have homes ready for the spring 2001 sales season.
The development will include a neighborhood park area and a pond for residents.
"It's not an affordable housing complex," he said. "It'll be an upscale development."
That's what Baker officials are counting on.
Six years ago the university bought 73 acres at the intersection of Douglas County roads 12 and 1055, with intentions to develop it for recreational use. The university soon built two soccer fields and a parking lot at the site, part of a larger plan for community recreational use.
Plans later emerged for a new community aquatic center, to be owned ands operated by the city, but Baldwin voters rejected that idea in favor of replacing the city's old pool with a new one.
That left Baker with a valuable tract of vacant property two miles north of campus and no real plan for its future, said John Fuller, a university spokesman.
"We're not a land developer," he said. "What we do best is provide education to students. That's why we decided to get rid of the land. It's not what we do. It's not what we're good at."
Green recently finished construction of another development on 90 acres directly north of the new site. Most of the 19 homes in Signal Oak Estates, which he started four years ago, sold for between $250,000 and $500,000, he said.
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is email@example.com.