A Seymour man was able to inspire many as a Pentecostal minister for more than 45 years.

But in his role as a residential developer, Albert Ray Skaggs found that inspiring faith in a 114-lot subdivision on the northeast corner of Columbus was a little more challenging.

When the founder of Skaggs Builders, Inc. first proposed developing 53 acres north of Rocky Ford Road, between Talley Road and Greenbriar Drive, many Columbus City Council members expressed reservations.

Although a hydrologist provided assurances that residential development would improve — not worsen — an already serious drainage problem, council concerns remained so strong that Skaggs’ proposal was nearly defeated in early 2003.

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Outside of local government, others warned the area was too far out of the way to be commercially successful, said Gayle Skaggs, the developer’s wife of 40-years.

Meanwhile, rural neighbors insisted such a large development north of the Eastridge Manor subdivision would create significant traffic problems and endanger children, according to 2003 news accounts.

“But (Albert Skaggs) saw the need for it, knew in his heart it would work, and he proved it,” Gayle Skaggs said.

The proof lies in the fact that construction was recently completed on the final home in Presidential Parks North, erected on the last remaining lot that was sold last summer.

“From Day One, we saw it was a product people were looking for,” said Jon Mains, sales and marketing coordinator of Skaggs Builders, Inc. “There wasn’t anything like it in Columbus.”

What makes the subdivision of homes, each priced below $300,000, can be described in three words: carefree lifestyle housing, Mains said.

“Presidential Parks is like a condominium association in that you have your grass cut, snow removed and trees trimmed,” Mains said. “But it’s unique in that these are single, detached, free-standing homes.”

Sadly, Albert Skaggs was unable to see his efforts come to full fruition. He died March 16, 2014, at the age of 69.

“It was his dream to do a development like that,” his widow said. “We are all very proud of it.”

While the concept was relatively unknown prior to 2003 in Columbus, Albert Skaggs had the advantage of testing carefree lifestyle housing in his hometown of Seymour in 1990, Mains said.

That project was so successful that Skaggs was encouraged to bring the concept to Bartholomew County by Jean Donica, broker-owner of Re/Max Real Estate Professionals of Columbus, Mains said.

Donica says she knew carefree lifestyle housing would be in high demand just by listening to others talk about how busy their lives have become.

“Even the younger people are working longer hours. So when they are not earning a paycheck, they want play time — instead of working around the house,” Donica said.

For those who are nearing retirement age, an investment in carefree lifestyle housing indicates both short-term and long-term planning, Presidential Parks homeowner Meredith Thompson said.

“You want a home built with accessibility to get in and stay there for when you become a senior,” Thompson said. “You don’t have to wait until you reach a point where you can’t take care of everything.”

Carefree lifestyle housing is also extremely popular with business travelers and local couples who spend their winters in warmer climates, Mains said.

While residents of the Adams-Jackson sections of Presidential Parks voted to keep their area for residents 55 and older, the Roosevelt area does not have such restrictions, homeowner Bob Harmon said.

What’s ahead

Not only do nine neighborhoods similar to Presidential Parks exist in communities such as Seymour, Edinburgh and Columbus today, but both Donica and Mains expect to announce new carefree lifestyle housing projects in the near future.Similar projects are also being considered by the nonprofit Thrive Alliance, which runs the Housing Partnerships Inc. program in Columbus, Donica said.

Donica cited three reasons why she believes some of these new developments will likely go up near downtown Columbus.

Many seniors desire both public transportation and amenities within walking distance.

Farmers are becoming increasingly protective of their land.

Compared to redevelopment expenses, new development costs are high.

While Gayle Skaggs said Mains has been the main force behind the Presidential Parks developments since her husband’s death, Mains said he has been surprised by a few things he has learned along the way.

For example, both he and Albert Skaggs first assumed that since retirees no longer have children at home, they were prepared for a downsize in living space.

But instead of going ahead with plans to build 1,200-square-foot houses, they have discovered many retirees actually prefer homes with about twice that floor space — and accommodated them, Mains said.

Another discovery that took Mains off-guard was the high demand among retirees for three-car attached garages, Mains said.

But when you consider how many retired men want to keep a motorcycle, a pickup, or a collector car — in addition to the family vehicle — that shouldn’t be surprising, Donica said.

Many retired women tell Donica they want that extra garage space as an exercise room or as an interior play area for visiting grandchildren, she said.

“Listening to what people want is the secret to everything,” Donica said.

Pull Quote

“Even the younger people are working longer hours. So when they are not earning a paycheck, they want play time — instead of working around the house.”

— Jean Donica, broker-owner of Re/Max Real Estate Professionals

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.