Sanctuary Communities Newsletter
Spring 2008
Introducing our first Sanctuary Village homes and mansion flat (condo) units

Featured Property - Lot11
Featured Property - Lot11

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in your next visit to the mountains.

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Greetings from the mountains of North Carolina.

It's full-bore spring in the mountains, and my spirits are high. Adding to the inspiration of our setting here in Western North Carolina is the weekend I just spent at the 16th annual gathering of the Congress for the New Urbanism. It was my third CNU conference (, marking almost exactly the time I've spent on one of the steepest and most thrilling learning curves in community development. I say "community" development, as opposed to "real estate" development, because of the way New Urbanists look at this process. We're creating neighborhoods, villages, and towns -- not just building developments.

At the conference in Austin this year, there wasn't much of the doom and gloom you're hearing from other real estate sectors. The designers and planners who associate themselves with this movement seem busier than ever, probably because there's been such a gap between demand for compact, walking communities and supply. Even in a slump, there's a lot of catching up to do. And given all the other instabilities the country faces, the appeal of a solid, supportive community is even stronger.

Of course, even in less turbulent times, bringing a neighborhood like Sanctuary Village into being would be a challenge. More than one veteran developer has advised me to either hold on to this unique 24-acre parcel just five blocks off Franklin's historic Main Street or do something more suburban and conventional. But I guess the conventional has never been all that appealing to me, especially when I'm convinced that conventional suburban development won't address market demand or the yearning for traditional neighborhoods. There just aren't enough places where friends gather on front porches, stroll along wide sidewalks, play in inviting parks or enjoy a cup of coffee or an ice cream at a corner shop.

I knew this is what our family wanted to create here in Franklin. And I know this is where our family wants to live. Now, after two short years and tremendous help from so many gifted friends and colleagues, our neighborhood, Sanctuary Village, will soon be available to those whose wish to enjoy all that the mountains of Western North Carolina have to offer and to do it while building a truecommunity.

Most of our Phase 1 infrastructure is in. Soon -- by early June -- the first of our homes will be set in place. I hope you will join us this summer for the grand opening of Sanctuary Village and plan your own future among new neighbors.

Don’t forget to register for our grand opening priority release event and watch our progress at:

From Town Paper:
"Walkability Steps into the Mainstream"
By Ruth Walker
New Towns cover

As the generation whose view of urban life was shaped by "Seinfeld" and "Friends" rather than police dramas moves into their prime home-buying years, walkable neighborhoods may be in demand as never before. Will the supply be there?

A funny thing happened to Tim Ryan on his way to build a gated community in the mountains of North Carolina.

He discovered the delights of walkable traditional neighborhoods, and now he’s building one himself.

When Ryan and his wife, Iva, moved to Franklin, N.C., from Miami some years back, they were ready for a break from the pressures of life in the big city. They settled in what he describes as “the most common type of community” that people like him tend to look for under those circumstances: “High mountains, a retreat-type place, with long-range views … that is appealing to people in high-stress areas.”

Eventually the Ryans started acquiring land on which to build a new development. They assumed it would be a “traditional subdivision, a gated community,” Tim explains. But then, at a home show, he happened to meet Bill Allison, principal of Allison Ramsey Architects, a new urbanist firm based in Asheville.

The principles Allison introduced Ryan to changed his vision for what he wanted to do as a developer. Now he’s thinking less about retreat and more about community. He’s building the Sanctuary Village, a neighborhood that will eventually comprise 160 to 180 houses five blocks away from Franklin’s 150-year-old traditional main street. “That connectivity to community, not having to drive everywhere, is very appealing,” he says. Tim Ryan is both a sign of the times and part of the solution to a problem many people may be unaware of. It has become glaringly apparent, however, to close students of the real estate market, such as Arthur C. Nelson of Virginia Tech, and Christopher Leinberger, currently a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The problem is that just as many Americans are deciding to forsake car-dependent suburbia for walkable urban neighborhoods, they’re finding those neighborhoods in very short supply.

Leinberger points out that real estate has always been a cyclical industry, subject to major corrections every several years. But the current slump is more than a cyclical downturn, he says. It’s “masking a structural shift in what the market demands.” It’s the pendulum swing toward demand for walkable urban communities.

They won’t be for everyone, as Leinberger implicitly acknowledges in the title of his new book, “The Option of Urbanism.” But he sees the new urbanist trend as a shift in the nature of the built environment as significant as what happened in the years after World War II, when so much of the middle class fled the cities for the suburbs.

Leinberger calculates that it could take decades for this pent-up demand to be satisfied. Here’s how he does the math: If about 35 percent of the public wants to live in walkable urban neighborhoods, but only 5 percent of the existing housing stock is in such neighborhoods, 30 percent of the public will be dissatisfied with available options.

This is the pent-up demand, and the market will respond to satisfy it. But it will take time. In a good year, the nation adds only 2 percent, just maybe at a stretch 3 percent, to its housing stock every year. Thirty percent divided by 2 or 3 percent equals 10 or 15 years -- and that’s how long it would take to satisfy pent-up demand if nothing but walkable urban neighborhoods were built over that time, a situation no one expects.

Meanwhile, the shortage is doing what shortages always do in free markets: It’s driving up prices. Leinberger’s research indicates that walkable urban dwellings are commanding a price premium of 40 to 200 percent per square foot above comparable dwellings in drive-everywhere neighborhoods.

As Leinberger sees it, the imagery of television is no small part of what’s driving the interest in walkable neighborhoods. Baby boomers grew up with the Cleavers in suburbia. Later on, their image of urban living was shaped by police shows like “Hill Street Blues.” These carried the message that big cities were dangerous places.

But Gen Y-ers and Millennials have come of age watching “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “Sex and the City,” and other shows whose background message was that cities are interesting places to live and run into friends on the street. This cohort sees an opportunity to live large by living in the whole urban space.

This development has not gone unnoticed by the National Association of Realtors -- and they’re not exactly a band of wild-eyed avant-gardistes.

“We like walkability,” says Hugh Morris, Smart Growth representative at the NAR headquarters in Washington.

He cites the work of Arthur C. Nelson of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, who is predicting a surplus of 22 million large-lot (sixth of an acre or bigger) houses on the market by 2025. “We pay attention to what he says,” Morris says simply.

NAR surveys of both recent homebuyers and the public at large show growing interest in what might be broadly described as new urbanist concerns, including walkability. “This is a shift in taste in what people want,” he says. Part of the NAR’s activism on this front includes providing grants to state and local affiliates who want to get involved in changing the zoning laws that have made traditional neighborhood development illegal in most places.

Public health concerns are helping promote walkability as well. The federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have a “healthy places” initiative whose glossary defines walkable communities in terms very familiar to a new urbanist.

Charles Ferguson’s Meridian Company in Beaufort, S.C., is developing Mariner’s Watch, a five-unit complex on the historic waterfront of nearby Port Royal. “It’s almost not new anymore,” says Ferguson of walkable neighborhood design, “especially in infill projects. It seems to be standard practice.”

With the zeal of a convert, Ryan says, “People truly want to connect with others.”

Click here to read the Town Paper article

Click here to download the whole publication in PDF version

Tim and Iva Ryan
The Sanctuary Communities
2206 Mountain Grove Road
Franklin, NC 28734
Phone: 828-349-4465 / 866-449-4465

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