Carol and Mike Kirsche moved to Riverlights nearly four years ago, becoming the first residents to occupy a home in the 1,400-acre master planned community on River Road in Wilmington.
“We wanted to be near a small city with character and charm, within close proximity to a full complement of medical facilities, shopping, diverse dining options, the ocean, recreational activities, churches and close by an airport,” Mike Kirsche said.
Riverlights checked the boxes for them.
“It met all our criteria, needs and wants,” he said.
This month, Riverlights officials are celebrating reaching 500 home closings, with plans for more residential and commercial growth.
“Just reaching that milestone is pretty remarkable and a testament to the collaborative planning process and envisioning process that the community went through,” said Nick Cassala, vice president of operations. “As we think about the celebration of 500 home closings, our thoughts are already on the future, and in fact we’re already projecting the dates in 2021 when we reach both the 600 milestone and 700 milestone.”
Cassala added, “Everything in Riverlights is playing out as planned, and with even more vibrant offerings available in the Marina Village to complement the residential growth, I think it’s just going to continue to flourish over the next few years.”
Riverlights includes a conventional neighborhood and Del Webb Wilmington, a neighborhood for homeowners ages 55 and older. The commercial component of Riverlights, Marina Village, includes restaurants, an art gallery, a wine shop, a bike shop, a place to play indoor golf and more.
Other businesses might be on the horizon, Cassala said.
“We would like to see a neighborhood grocery introduced in Riverlights. We don’t have any active conversations at this time with respect to that use,” but it’s something that could develop as the population continues to increase, he said.
Apartments are another major part of that growth.
The first apartment community in Riverlights, Mosby at Riverlights, is under construction and anticipated to add at least 250 residents. All of the apartments in two mixed-use buildings at Marina Village are already leased up, and preleasing at Mosby could begin before the end of this year.
Investors purchased the first mixed-use apartment building, with its 18 apartments, for more than $4.6 million in 2018. Middleburg Communities, a Vienna, Virginia-based real estate investment, development, construction and management firm, bought the site for Mosby at Riverlights at the end of 2019.
In the works at Riverlights are plans for more multifamily projects.
“Those transactions haven’t been completed as of yet, but there will continue to be a diverse offering depending on how the market responds over time,” Cassala said.
As in any master planned community, residents can attract other residents they know or who are family members. That’s been the case for the Kirsches with respect to friends from their previous Brunswick County neighborhood.
“Several friends have visited us, love what they see and are contemplating a future move to Riverlights,” said Mike Kirsche, whose home is a one-story, 1,700-square-foot cottage, “our ideal perfect retirement home.”
Engaged couple Marlee Langton, a nurse, and Matt Randolph, a doctor, moved to Riverlights about a year ago from Michigan. They both work at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
“We met in Michigan; we were both born and raised there,” Langton said. “And when we got together, I said, ‘One of the things I’m not going to compromise on is, when I get the chance, I’m going to move to warm weather,’ something I always wanted to do.”
Langton and Randolph chose to design their home with a minimalist/ Scandinavian/modern farmhouse feel, differing from the typical cottages in the community.
Of the 500-family Riverlights milestone, Langton said, “I think it’s great. I’m so glad to see people moving here into Wilmington. I mean obviously we were one of those transplants. And I know that Wilmington is kind of reaching capacity, but we love sitting on the porch and seeing people walk by, walking their dogs. It doesn’t feel crowded to me.”
Langton and Randolph, and the Kirsches, praised the neighborhood’s amenities, which includes a 38-acre lake, eight parks and access to the Cape Fear River.
“My fiancée and I like to kayak, and on a day when you don’t feel like taking a kayak out [to one of the other waterways] … you’ve got it right in your backyard,” Randolph said. “It’s fantastic.”
One challenge not just facing Riverlights but other communities where homes are being built is getting supplies in a timely manner. Those include appliances, along with lumber, which has increased exponentially in cost, and other materials. That affects the price of housing.
“Folks want homes and they want them quickly, but the industry as a whole is going to have a little bit of a challenge delivering them,” said Cassala, adding that supply-chain issues can extend a building timeline “sometimes a couple of weeks to maybe a couple of months depending on the size of the home and also the size of the builder.”
Riverlights has a builders guild of several local and regional homebuilding firms. Developed by Newland Communities and owned by North America Sekisui House LLC and Newland Real Estate Group, Riverlights is planned to have a total of 2,790 single-family, patio, multifamily and townhome dwellings.