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Taylor community, Plein Air, sees expansive growth in 2018

By Megan Feringa

EAGLE Contributor

Plein Air, the Taylor community that’s revitalizing neighborhood values of one hundred years ago, has potentially found its much-awaited tipping point in residential sales.

In the first five months of 2018, Plein Air sold more houses than all of 2017 combined, the year Campbell McCool, owner of the development community, considered their “best year yet.”

With so many sales, the 2018 inventory for Plein Air has been depleted for the year, McCool said.

“We just had a flurry of activity in April and May, and all of our inventory was gone like that,” McCool said.

With the depleted inventory, Plein Air has entered what McCool calls “Phase VI,” in which 12 new lots will be added by the end of July ranging from $68,000-84,000, about $180/foot, an eight percent sale increase from 2017 and a fifteen percent increase from 2016. House plans start at $225,000.

Of course, a depleted inventory isn’t a bad problem to have. In fact, it’s one McCool has anticipated for some time.

“It’s been ten years. We were plotted for 200 homes, so I thought we’d be sold out by 2015,” McCool said. “But 2008 happened on a worldwide level, and real estate is the area that got whacked the hardest.”

After 2008, McCool put everything on hold for a few years, but in 2013, much to McCool’s delight, the community’s growth began picking up steam again.

“A lot of people who have been in development longer than me said, ‘You’re going to hit a tipping point,’ and I was like, ‘Well, how do you make that happen faster?’” McCool said. “But you can’t. It happens when it happens…you just have to believe it’s not just a plan on the wall, but it’s really going to happen.”

Currently home to a little over 100 people living in 58 individually-crafted houses, Plein Air is a southern-styled haven fit with its own-award winning restaurant, Grit, two art studios, a vintage chapel and a 12,000 square-foot event venue modeled entirely out of maple and brick from a cotton mill in Virginia. Embedded in the community’s growth is the addition of Lost Dog Coffee Shop in August. The neighborhood will also host over 36 weddings this year.

So why the sudden flock to the Taylor community? The expansive growth of Lafayette County could have something to do with it. Lafayette County was ranked the 35th fastest growing county in the nation in the 2010 U.S. Census. But McCool said Plein Air’s growth has more to it than an influx of people.

“You just ride around, you look at it, it’s different,” McCool said. “It’s not your typical development. It’s a ‘front porch neighborhood.’”

McCool’s idea of a ‘front porch neighborhood’ might seem old-fashioned to some, but it’s a style that has captivated those who have been exposed to it.

“People come here and they say, ‘Oh, it reminds me of my grandmother’s neighborhood, it reminds me of Seaside,’” McCool said. “I mean, I can’t imagine doing it any other way, but for some reason, everyone thinks it’s so ‘wow.’”

Plein Air sells itself on its “front porch philosophy,” one that encourages friendliness and engagement, making a neighborhood more than just a place to live, but a place to love.

“Houses with a front porch encourage people to hang out on the front porch, walk up and down the sidewalks, talk to each other, that kind of thing,” McCool said. “…Sadly you look at the developments going on in Oxford and none of them have front porches. I don’t get it. I would never live in a house without a front porch.”

Spending his childhood in New Orleans, McCool found a love for traditional development neighborhoods, one that finds influence from older European grid styles and the ‘front-porch’ way of living. After residing in Atlanta for 18 years, McCool moved his family to a farm in Taylor in the early 2000s and bought 64 acres of land to pursue his project.

“I started to really think more seriously about doing a traditional neighborhood development with an emphasis on the arts. That was kind of the whole thing. Taylor has sort of an artsy twist to it,” McCool said.

Each year, the community hosts a myriad of art events from painting workshops and photography exhibits to free concerts on the lawn.

“The arts are a big part of who Taylor is, so I wanted it to be a big part of who Plein Air is,” McCool said.

McCool said he owes Plein Air’s growth to its members.

“The best thing we have going for us is the people who have moved here. You can’t plan that. We got lucky,” McCool said.

Comprised mostly of young retirees and young couples, the community boasts a very literate and politically active group of people, according to McCool, which makes selling the community to potential buyers a problem of the past.

“I think they attract other good people,” McCool said. “The biggest selling point we have is people who invite their friends, and their friends say, ‘Why don’t we live here?’”

For the community’s future, McCool has plenty of aspirations, especially since the community’s commercial district is roughly the equivalent to the Oxford Square.

McCool’s future plans call for an expansion of the square to include a small hotel, an office building, a wellness center that will offer yoga and Pilates classes, physical therapy and a gym, a few more restaurants and at least 130 more houses.   

For more information, visit http://pleinairtaylor.com.