With developable land becoming more scarce in the immediate Boston area, both developers and potential homebuyers have begun exploring alternative sites farther away from the Hub, with the apparent path of choice leading south.

Citing more availability of land, easy access to highways and transportation and the fact that the area had been somewhat “undiscovered,” developers and real estate agents in Southeastern Massachusetts say their neck of the woods is gradually becoming the area of choice when it comes to relocation.

By far, the largest example of the building boom in the area is The Pinehills, a 3,037-acre mixed-use site in the community of Plymouth. Once completed, the project will include 2,854 homes, as many as four golf courses and 1.3 million square feet of commercial and retail space.

Other larger projects of note include Oak Point, a 55-plus community featuring 700 single-family homes under development in Middleborough, and Southport, a similar adult community with 750 residences under construction just across the Cape Cod Canal in Mashpee.

Though tiny in comparison to the aforementioned projects, a sizeable 70-home upscale development, Tanglewood Estates, is well under way in Easton, and several other smaller-scale developments can be seen popping up around the area.

“I think some of the reason the Metro South area is getting so much attention now is that it’s been an underdeveloped area with respect to what has been going on north of Boston and in the Metro West region. It’s an untapped area for the most part,” said John Allaire of Easton Real Estate in Easton.

Tanglewood Estates takes its name from the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in the Berkshire County town of Lenox. The homes in the development, which start at $454,000, sit along roads such as Symphony Drive and Harmony Lane.

“There’s been a lot going on in the area,” Allaire said. “In terms of transportation, the area is convenient to many highways, and there are more trains now with the opening of new commuter rail lines. It’s opened up the area to a lot of people.”

Tony Green, managing partner of The Pinehills, said that, among other factors, the beauty of the area is what’s attracting homebuyers to the Southeast and, hopefully, to his specific development.

“The physical assets of the place are extraordinary,” he said of the topography, proximity to the water, and quality of the views. “This is what the market is demanding, and the fact that such a piece of land [where The Pinehills is being constructed] could even exist was amazing. We found 3,000 acres with nothing on it, and the zoning bylaws allow us to take advantage of it.”

Of the 3,000 acres in the development, Green pointed out that only 900 would be built on, with the rest remaining as open space in the form of untouched land, a village green, or as part of a golf course.

Eileen J. Richardson, partner and director of sales and marketing for Oak Point also touted the benefits of building and buying in Southeastern Massachusetts. “It’s a great location,” she said. “In places it’s very rural, and it creates a safe environment. There’s also nearby shopping and other services. You’re close to [Interstate] 495, and you’re midway between Boston and the Cape.

“There are a lot of people that originally were from the area, and now they’re choosing to come back here,” Richardson added.

Great Expectations
The fact that there are still parcels of land readily available for development in many of the communities is also a significant draw for the area, Allaire said. “I think overall there is a general availability of land,” he said. Though he said larger parcels like the 3,000 acres at The Pinehills or 780 acres at Oak Point “are not an easy thing to come by, we’re not in a situation like you find in the Boston area where you have to buy a half-million-dollar property just to tear the house down and build what you want.

“It’s more desirable just to pop up a new house in a subdivision,” Allaire said.

“I think the attraction to the area is that homes are generally less expensive than what you might find in Greater Boston,” said Rich Carlson of Carlson Communication who has represented several large residential developments. The availability of larger tracts of land, he said, adds to that affordability.

“When you have a large tract of land you can build several homes on, you can amortize the cost of building over a greater number of units, and you can also amortize the cost of a golf course or a clubhouse. It affords you the opportunity to build more homes and provide more recreational opportunities on site,” he said.

The real estate market across Massachusetts continues to remain hot, and the new developments in the Southeast are no exception. “We’re selling tremendously,” Richardson reported. “We had high hopes and aspirations when we started marketing our homes, and we have surpassed those expectations.” While she declined to give actual sales figures, Richardson reported: “We had hoped to sell 100 units in our first year, and we’re well over that.”

The Oak Point developers planned to construct one phase each year for seven years. “We’re into our second phase, and as soon as we opened marketing for the second phase, we had people waiting in line,” Richardson said.

Marketing is not yet under way at The Pinehills, but Green said that interest in the project has been high. Allaire reported sales at Tanglewood Estates to be “brisk.”

And while the real estate market eventually has to cool off, the developers interviewed said they’re betting demand will continue to remain high for their houses.

“We’re so convinced that demand for the units will remain strong that we’ve exercised an option on an abutting piece of land wheres there’s room for 300 or 400 more units,” Richardson said.

Green said because the nature of his mixed-use, open-space development appealing primarily to empty-nesters and baby boomers is unique in the Bay State, he doesn’t anticipate demand tapering off anytime soon.

“The marketplace for this type of development isn’t tested, it doesn’t even exist in Massachusetts,” he said. “If you look at the demographics, there is a significant group of people out there that want this preferred lifestyle.” Prices for homes at The Pinehills are expected to start at about $300,000.

Developers cite many advantages to building in the area, but development often brings with it increased traffic, pollution and loss of green space, the very things homebuyers were looking to get away from by moving there in the first place.

“Well, it’s not going to cut down on traffic,” Allaire said. “There might be a slight increase in congestion.” Developers, however, downplayed any negative impact on the area.

“They’re not going to be a burden on the school system,” Richardson said of Oak Point’s older residents. “We’re paying the real estate taxes with little or no burden for the town. As far as business go, the people in this age group like to shop. They like to dine out, and they’ll patronize local businesses.”

Green said Plymouth’s open-space zoning requirements for the area where The Pinehills is located helps to allow the developers to build homes that are clustered together, leaving large tracts of land undisturbed. In other communities, he added, regulations would have called for homes to be on larger parcels, resulting in less unused land.

“We will continually monitor wastewater issues over time to make sure we’re constantly doing what’s best for the town, not just what’s good right at this moment. We’ll also be doing the same thing for traffic,” Green said. Because The Pinehills will contain retail and residential space, Green predicted that a lot of traffic could be isolated to trips within the development that would lessen the impact on outside roads.

“If things aren’t properly planned out, traffic could be a problem,” Carlson said. “But I think towns are careful now to make sure the infrastructure is in place to handle the development.” He added that by having families move into new homes in developments, their prior residences are added to the housing stock for first-time homebuyers or home owners looking to move.

Developers and Homebuyers Heading South of Boston

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 5 min