NEW PALESTINE — The scent of fresh paint still lingered in the new clubhouse, complete with a big kitchen, dining area, living room, workout facility and outdoor pool for residents.

Three Hancock County custom homebuilders, all dressed in white shirts and blue jeans, sat comfortably on the sprawling sofa in front of the stone fireplace, admiring the start of a project they say will fill a need in the southern Hancock housing community.

Construction has begun on The Preserve at Sugar Creek, 4495 W. Preserve Pass in New Palestine, a maintenance-free community aimed at attracting senior citizens but also providing housing for families. Builders Dave Parish, Dave Sego and Carl McIntyre — the faces behind the newly formed Gateway Communities — purchased the land for $300,000 with plans to build 74 condominiums and single-family villas priced between $190,000 and $400,000.

Eight homes have already been sold and are under construction. Plans call for two- and three-bedroom homes with garages for two or three cars to be built on demand, with floor plans starting 1,450 square feet and ranging to 3,000 square feet or more.

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The developers say they’re selling more than custom homes; what The Preserve promises is year-round curb appeal, with lawn care, snow removal and other exterior maintenance work, including projects like roof or siding repair, covered by homeowners association fees — $200 monthly for the condos and $235 for the villas. In addition to the clubhouse and pool, the community will also feature walking trails and common areas for residents to gather.

After decades of building custom homes in the area independently, Parish, Sego and McIntyre said they decided to try something new; instead of competing, they combine their expertise and resources into their new company, Gateway Communities, to take on the project.

The Preserve is the second such venture for the trio, which also jointly invested $1.1 million with another builder, Tom Joyner of Joyner Homes, to buy 44 lots in the Stone Ridge subdivision near the intersection of West County Road 100N and North County Road 200W in Greenfield. Plans for that area call for custom homes, in the $800,000 to $1 million price range.

“In order to get the ground to build on, we had to join forces,” McIntyre said.

The Preserve at Sugar Creek in New Palestine offers an alternative for residents who are interested in buying a home but don’t want the hassle of maintenance responsibilities of their land, Parish said.

“Homeowners will only take care of the things from the dry wall in,” Parish said. “We’re selling a lifestyle here.”

The condos and homes were designed for the Baby Boomer generation, but families with children are also welcome, the builders said.

The trio said it made good business sense to combine their efforts in order to provide residents with higher-quality housing options. Builders that specialize in inexpensive cookie-cutter type homes have taken over the home-building business since 2008, Sego said.

Planning two developments in the county gives the builders encouragement; they have a chance to build an estimated 118 homes in the area over the next few years.

Before the custom home builders came together and bought the property at Stone Ridge in Greenfield, the land was bank-owned, undeveloped, sitting empty waiting for something, McIntyre pointed out.

“We joined forces and took the risk,” McIntyre said.

They’ve cleared the land there, put in streets and have already sold five lots, with one $1 million home under construction.

The builders’ goal is to keep the value of Hancock County up and develop homes by local builders instead of letting a publicly traded business come in and build low-cost homes.

“We’re local, we live here, our kids go to school here,” Parish said. “We’re invested.”

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.