New homes and commercial buildings keep coming to Brunswick Forest, a 4,500-acre master-planned development in Leland that can trace its origins back to the early 2000s.
“Brunswick Forest” was “just a name on a site plan in 2007. Where a single sales trailer was the only building to be found on site,” according to a history of the community on its website.
Currently, the development continues to attract new residents and businesses, along with contributing to the town of Leland’s tax base.
“Without question the combination of residential units and commercial properties by far and away provides more tax revenue than any other single development in the town,” said Gary Vidmar, Leland’s economic and community development director.
As of January, Brunswick Forest held 3,717 housing units in its Planned Unit Development district, or PUD, said Ben Watts, a planner with the town of Leland. Those units are a mix of single-family houses, townhomes, condos and apartments, he said.
A representative of Brunswick Forest’s original developer, Funston Land & Timber, declined to comment about the community’s latest phases when reached in early March.
Other companies have purchased or are in the process of buying Brunswick Forest parcels. Under construction by Liberty Senior Living, a division of Wilmington-based Liberty Healthcare, are 152 independent living apartments, on land near Brunswick Forest’s commercial district that Liberty had been amassing since 2016.
Additional senior living components will be part of the Liberty Senior Living development, including assisted living and skilled nursing care portions. A Liberty plan to build senior cottages is under review by the town.
In Phase Nine of Brunswick Forest’s master plan, 908 units are allowed on 950 acres, and the town has had a couple of site plans come through for smaller neighborhoods within that phase. A developer is working through due diligence on the potential purchase of land along Kay Todd Road on the far west end of Brunswick Forest, where 1,000 acres are expected to be sold off to developers by Funston for projects that could include single-family homes, apartments and possibly single- family housing for rent, Vidmar said.
Site plans for those acres had not yet been submitted to the town as of March 10.
Funston recently completed a utilities project, which was funded by the town of Leland at a cost of $2.6 million from Leland’s utility fund, not tax money from its general fund, Vidmar said. The project extended water and sewer lines down the Brunswick Village Boulevard extension and up Kay Todd Road. Similarly, he said, the Brunswick Village Boulevard extension is being funded and built by the town as part of a development agreement between Funston and Leland.
“We felt that those two projects, utilities and the road extension, will accelerate the build-out of the balance of Brunswick Forest going west,” Vidmar said. “If it was left up to the developer to fund that infrastructure, it would have been done in several smaller phases and over a much longer period of time.
“By building the road and extending utilities for them, it will now take that funding out of their budget and allow them to continue building homes at a much more rapid pace and sell land at a more rapid pace than they would have otherwise. That leads to increased tax revenues to the town in a much more accelerated fashion.”
Demand is high for housing in Brunswick County as a whole. Realtors reported that in February, with higher prices, fewer new listings and low inventory.
“Thanks to the increase in average sale prices, total sales volume jumped 6.5% despite a 17.3% drop in homes sold,” according to a news release by the Brunswick County Association of Realtors.
BCAR CEO Cynthia Walsh said, “We continue to see fewer listings, and inventory is at a 12-month low. Additionally, the number of active listings dropped nearly 45% from January to February. The tight inventory, coupled with strong demand and a strong luxury market, is driving average sale prices and total sales volume upward. We continue to see a strong seller’s market with plenty of interested buyers, but not enough homes to accommodate them.”
Typically, Brunswick County has been a mecca for retirees, particularly from the Northeast. The demographics have been changing in Brunswick Forest, Vidmar said.
“It’s definitely a mix. Maybe in the early stages of the [Brunswick Forest] development years ago, it was primarily retirees because that’s where they did their marketing and trade shows up north to bring retirees down here,” Vidmar said. “But I think as years go on, we are beginning to see more and more of a mix of younger families and children.”
He said the trend is also true elsewhere in the northern Brunswick County town, including in other Leland master-planned developments.
“Waterford, for example, where I reside, at one time was primarily retirees and now are attracting many more younger couples and younger families,” Vidmar said. “That’s been my goal for a long time is to begin getting a mix of population and we’re beginning to see that happen for sure.”
Also on the roster of new structures coming to the commercial portion of the development, the Villages at Brunswick Forest, are 4,200-square-foot restaurant spaces by Wilmington-based development firm Swain & Associates. That’s another example of vacant land bought by a separate developer, Vidmar said.
“Because Brunswick Forest is continuing to build out at such a rapid pace, it provides a rapidly growing potential base of customers for all the commercial and restaurant facilities immediately in front of Brunswick Forest,” he said, “not to mention other customers that come in from outside Brunswick Forest.”