The Cambridge Comeback

Photo by Wendy Hilliard

Photo by Wendy Hilliard

In 2006, an enterprising developer from New Jersey saw a golden opportunity in Southport, North Carolina. Near the undeniably scenic South Harbour Village Marina, off of Fish Factory Road, sat a very large plot of land. The developer, Stratland Homes, recognized the value of the location and jumped to capitalize on it. The company was approved to build 88 spacious townhomes. The roads, sewer lines, and utilities were complete. Construction started on approximately 40 townhomes, while three were already sold.

Then the recession hit in 2008. Stratland Homes faced growing financial problems, and the lender foreclosed on its loan. Despite the progress made, construction came to an end.

Master bedroom of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

Master bedroom of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

The bank attempted to sell the project, but no developers could acquire financing. For many in the housing industry, all across the nation, this is a story that has spread far too many times in the past four years of recession.

Two years ago, however, a new developer grabbed hold of the foreclosed property—and they paid cash. Known as Cambridge Southport, LLC, the group of real estate-savvy individuals began their work, unleashing four varied floor plans and a fully decorated model that is open daily.

“These new owners were smart,” principal broker Pete Frandano explains. “They bought the whole project with their own money—there is no bank debt at all. Therefore, they never face the threat of losing the property to a bank. They have to see it through to get their investment back.”

Guest bedroom of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

Guest bedroom of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

The area is now called Cambridge Crossings, a collection of luxurious townhomes that, on the inside, feel more like single dwellings than close quarters. The quality of each unit is evident, as homeowners report never hearing their neighbors, and from the brick facades to the linen closets, it’s clear detail was offered much attention.

Much of this can be attributed to the current developer’s financial standing. The new partnership, according to Frandano, is in the enviable position of being able to move the project forward one unit at a time with no artificial timeline put in place by a lender. After speaking with new homeowners Gloria and Fred Strickert, Southport Magazine learned the delicate, deliberate pace of construction is no front.

The dining room of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

The dining room of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

The Strickerts spent 27 years living in Iowa, raising two daughters and a son. Before retirement, Gloria was a Diaconal Minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). She served as a hospital chaplain, offering spiritual support to patients, staff, and visiting family members. She also has experience working in education: as an elementary school teacher, as a director of Christian education, and as a church youth director. Fred, a devoted writer, was a Lutheran Pastor and Professor Emeritus of Religion at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

The Strickerts’ work took them around the world—from six-year missionaries in Papua New Guinea to spending the last three years living in Jerusalem, though they still owned their Iowa home. Along with one daughter’s family living in Russia, their son in Iowa, and their youngest daughter in Charlotte, NC, the Strickerts cover a lot of ground.

When their daughter settled in Charlotte with a family and a job in the school system, the connection led Fred and Gloria to spend a lot of time in North Carolina. “My daughter has a condo on Oak Island,” Fred shares. “We started coming down about nine years ago for vacation. We came to enjoy it and spent a couple months here in the fall; I had a sabbatical for my teaching and I was working on a book. We stayed [in the condo] for a good, relaxing place to work.”

The kitchen of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

The kitchen of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

“And then we found out how it was in the fall,” Gloria muses. Fred agrees that the Southport-Oak Island area blooms into a new kind of community once summer tourism is past. “We wanted to retire into an area that was lower stress,” he says. “We’ve been in some hectic places. We wanted a relaxing atmosphere and warmer climate, especially away from the snow and ice.”

Their search for a retirement home in the South began two years ago, leading them to tour St. James, Arbor Creek, and Oak Island. “I’d looked on Zillow from Jerusalem the last six months,” Gloria reveals of her tactics. “That makes it very easy, because you can get a sense for what the prices are, what type of homes are out there, and how real estate’s moving. It gave us a good place to start from.”

Gloria says the couple even considered a move to Charleston. “But we felt comfortable here, like we already knew places to go a little bit, and we knew the main ways around. We’d already found a church community that was very welcoming [in St. Peter’s Lutheran]. That was really important for us. They treated us like we already belonged.”

Their ongoing search led them to Cambridge Crossings unexpectedly, as the Strickerts happened upon the area while driving through South Harbour. “Right away we loved the concept,” Gloria details. “The model home is beautiful.”

The living room of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

The living room of the model home; photo by Wendy Hilliard

When they decided upon their floorplan—the smallest at about 2,000 square feet, but still featuring two bedrooms, a bonus room, and three full baths—their townhome had only the frame. The Strickerts were able to select their finishes, including the tile, cabinetry, the choice of wood for the floors—and if they wanted carpet in the bedrooms and stairs. “I wanted a farmer sink,” Gloria tells. “They said, ‘We haven’t done that yet, but we’ll check’—and they got it.”

The Strickerts also had the contractor change the way one door swings and make adjustments to a closet. According to Gloria, it seems a homeowner could make any request, and the developers would do their best to accomodate. “If it’s possible, they’ll do it,” she affirms.

Gas fireplaces come standard in Cambridge Crossings, and garages fit either one or two cars in each unit. The Strickerts have separate HVACs for the upstairs and downstairs living spaces, too.

A major plus is the patio just off the living room. The Strickerts’ floorplan allows a door from the master bedroom to the patio. “Fred is out there every morning,” Gloria offers.

One of the couple’s biggest draws to the neighborhood was its residents. “Everybody here is very friendly, very social,” she describes. “I like to say, ‘our kind of people.’ They enjoy getting together but don’t have to.”

What’s more, they appreciate the lack of sound from their neighbors. “These places are so well built that you don’t think of having neighbors, because you don’t hear a thing,” Gloria reveals. “So you have the blessing of community, but you don’t feel there are people on top of each other.”

With a son who works in construction, the Strickerts know a thing or two about a job well done. They heeded his advice while shopping for a new home. “We watch how they’re building [the unfinished units across the street], and we know how they’re putting these together,” she asserts. “We experienced it, but then we see it and know it. We’ve learned a lot from our son, so we can see the quality.”

For more information on Cambridge Crossings, contact realtor Iris Cavin at (910) 368-1130.

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