The following post is the third in a series of posts that are being written in collaboration with M/I Homes, a homebuilding company based in Columbus, OH. M/I has invited me to share my own Realtor viewpoints over a series of blog and social media posts in conjunction with the grand opening of The Village of Minerva Park, one of their newest communities in Central Ohio. While M/I will help connect me to many of their employees who work behind the scenes and grant me access to their team members and community along the way, all opinions and commentary stated herein will be my own unless otherwise noted.
I hope you enjoy this look behind the scenes on the evolution of a new community.
Part III – “Good Neighbors Who Don’t Even Live There”
Is it possible to be part of a neighborhood if you don’t actually live there?
It’s a good question when you’re trying to define what “neighborhood” means. Of course, most people think of the homeowners and their families that live in the homes but what about the local market owner that everyone buys their groceries from? How about the barber that has been cutting hair for more than three generations of residents? The local librarian or police chief that knows all the faces, cars and tire swings along every street?
If the people who provide the services and support for the residents are considered part of the fabric of the neighborhood, shouldn’t the people who helped “build” the neighborhood be considered as much of a neighbor too? I certainly think so and so do the people I talked to during a recent visit to the M/I Homes Headquarters in Columbus.
I’ve been a Realtor since 1998 and have predominantly helped clients find (and sell) existing homes. I have also had the privilege of helping several of my clients in the process of building a new home with a builder. Looking back, I never really knew all of the people behind the “sticks & bricks” that my clients would soon be calling their “home.” This post gives a peek behind the curtain and answers the question, “Who are the people involved in a new home community like Minerva Park?”
From Division President, Tim Hall, down to Marketing Coordinator Stephanie Starn, every single employee I spoke with feels as much of a connection to their new Minerva Park community as the future residents that will someday be handed keys to their newly built home.
The Cast of Characters
The team at M/I Homes is excited for the grand opening of Minerva Park’s model this weekend, not just because it’s the culmination of a 2+ year process since they started a conversation with the former property owner, but because they are excited to “welcome home” new neighbors to one of the first major newly built communities inside the Columbus outerbelt (locally know as I-270) in recent years.“It was a major goal of M/I to find a property inside the 270 loop where we could build new homes starting in the 200’s,” said Vice President of Sales & Marketing Dave Balcerzak. In the 6+ months since they began their marketing of the site, M/I has generated more than 500 potential “neighbors” showing interest. That number will realistically be narrowed down to around half that truly have serious interest in the near future. 20 families were chosen this week in a “lottery” of applicants to have the chance to be among the first homeowners in Minerva Park.
Even though the M/I development of Minerva Park will look like a new community to first-time visitors, it was important to both Balcerzak and VP of Land Kevin Zeppernick that this project wasn’t “separate” from the original community…but an extension of it. Former and current residents might reminisce about the golf course that once occupied the land but, before long, will be enjoying cookouts or trick-or-treating with neighbors inside the newly built homes in their neighborhood.
A new home in a neighborhood that has been a part of Central Ohio for the last 70 years.
I asked Balzerzcak what is something he would look forward to telling his kids or grandkids years from now when he drives through the new development. His response was that he would be proud to tell his daughters that he was a small part of helping deliver “a new home in a neighborhood that has been a part of Central Ohio for the last 70 years.”Zeppernick explained that the discussions with the previous property owner began over two years ago back in early 2015. Numerous discussions with other builders never resulted in a win-win for both builder and property owner so Zeppernick and his team kept building the relationship, listened to concerns and offered solutions and finally an agreement, in both vision and details, to make the next part of the Minerva Park community a reality was ready to happen.
“In the case of Minerva Park, it was about as intimate as you can get, ” remembered Zeppernick. “It was an emotional attachment to the golf course that had been there for as long as many of the residents can remember. I probably spent a couple hundred hours with the Mayor (of Minerva Park) and the staff, city council, meeting with the neighbors and going extensively through “how could we create a project there that would be tremendous for their community?”
Along the way, M/I team members like Tim Cook, the Director of Architecture, had to design the 6 models of homes that would eventually be chosen. Director of Purchasing Eric Hibner would be in charge of pricing, procuring and delivering everything from lumber to lighting and shingles to shelving. Brent Holsinger is M/I’s VP of Production, which means he’s the guy to make sure that hammer meets nail and the physical product starts coming together. Underneath Holsinger’s command are construction managers and construction supervisors, all the way down to the subcontractors digging the foundations, hanging the drywall and all the other details involved from the ground up.
Of course working behind the scenes and under the direction of Balcerzak to market the brand new section of the Minerva Park neighborhood is a team of people from PR to Internet Sales and the numerous social channels where M/I maintains a solid presence.
Add in the New Home Representatives Angela Kohler and Krista Cupp (who we’ll meet in the next post in the series) along with the M/I Financial team to approve financing, and Jenny Entler and her team in the M/I Design Center and you can appreciate that it’s more than just a simple “pick it, purchase it and put your stuff in it” transaction.
I asked Zeppernick what he would look back on years from now and be most proud of in his journey to make Minerva Park a reality. “…when I drive often (through the development) with my two little girls and I tell them…all these wonderful things that Dad gets to do on a regular basis feeds back into someone’s base…and that’s their home.”
What About You?
Do you know all of your neighbors? Not just the residents of the homes up and down your street and on the next block, but what about the people who helped build your neighborhood? What about the former residents who helped make your neighborhood what it is today? Do you know, like and trust the vendors, store owners, and other community members who contribute to the place you call home?
What will you say about your neighborhood and what you contributed along the way to that new “neighbor” moving in down the street?