Partly finished neighborhoods in northern Johnson County have been filling in again after years of inactivity.
Developers turned farm field after farm field into rows of new homes during the housing boom over the past decade, but many newer subdivisions were in progress when the market collapsed about four years ago.
Construction stopped. New homes looked out at empty fields. Blocks abruptly ended or had gaps like missing teeth where homes were planned but not built.
A few homes sat alone amid acres of grass in neighborhoods such as Greenwood Trace off U.S. 31. In Shepherds Grove in White River Township and other subdivisions, the developer or builder went out of business.
But new builders have come in and taken over neighborhoods such as Shepherds Grove or revived subdivisions that were planned but never started, including Honey Creek Meadows, at Worthsville Road and County Road 125W, and Cobblestone, near Demaree and Honey Creek roads, both in Greenwood.
Homebuilding has been picking up and is 15 percent higher through the end of August in Johnson County than it was over the same period last year and in 2010. The number of building permits is about 96 percent higher than it was at the same period in 2009, when the market hit the bottom, according to Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis statistics.
Local planners said the recent home construction has been happening in partly finished neighborhoods, mostly in the northern part of the county.
Builders have been expressing more confidence about the economy and the housing market, Johnson County planning director Bryan Pohl said. Neighborhoods such as West Wakefield and Brookhaven in the Center Grove area have been filling up, and it shouldn’t be much longer until developers start proposing new subdivisions again, he said.
The construction is benefiting residents who bought new homes in still-developing subdivisions where construction stalled, Greenwood planning director Ed Ferguson said. They can better enjoy the neighborhood setting they expected when they moved in if they live across the street from houses and not empty lots, he said.
“It looks better and neighbors will take care of their property better than if it were a vacant lot with weeds,” he said. “The appearance is just so much better when your property isn’t next to weed-choked lots.”
As new-home construction continues, residents no longer will have to live across from vacant lots or swaths of empty land in stalled subdivisions, Pohl said. They’ll have an improved appearance to their neighborhoods, higher property values and more confidence they’ll be able to sell their homes for a good price, he said.
For example, Shepherds Grove consisted of about 32 homes wrapped mostly around one street. Work started in 2002 but stalled about four years ago. But seven lots for homes have been sold this year, and four houses are under construction.
Builder Shoopman Homes is building three 2,300-square-foot single-family homes in Greenwood Trace off U.S. 31. That neighborhood originally was supposed to have multi-unit homes but has sat mostly vacant for years, Ferguson said.
Builders have been launching new sections in subdivisions where construction is ongoing, such as Tuscany Village in Greenwood and Honey Creek Meadows in Center Grove. They built more than 320 homes in Johnson County through the end of August, compared with about 280 houses through the same time last year and 279 homes over the same period in 2010.
Nearly twice as many houses have been built this year as the 164 that were built through the end of August in 2009.
Most of the new construction is in Greenwood and the Center Grove area. More than 145 building permits have been issued in Greenwood this year, while 74 of the 90 permits issued by Johnson County were for homes in White River Township, Pohl said.