GREENFIELD — Residents of a westside neighborhood are finally getting some relief after the 2008 recession left their streets and housing development in a state of uncertainty.
The Meridian East neighborhood, a group of 67 homes near Meridian and McKenzie roads, has been in a state of limbo since a developer pulled back in the midst of the housing crisis six years ago. But a decision by a city board last week means the crumbling streets and curbs could finally get fixed and brings new hope that even more homes will eventually be built.
“We really got caught up in this housing debacle that’s happened in the last five years,” said Mike Redick, president of the homeowners association. “Originally, 240 homes were supposed to be built. The first (developer) went under. The second bought it, but he’s not going to do anything with the rest of the community, so we’re stuck with 67 homes.”
While 67 homes can hardly support the clubhouse, pool and playground amenities, Redick said perhaps the most frustrating problem has been the rough, bumpy streets that are impossible to clear in the winter and an annoyance in the summer.
But change could be on the way soon. The Greenfield Board of Works last week declared the neighborhood’s original developer – Meridian East Development Co. – in default of bonds that had been agreed upon with the city.
Bonds are a safeguard for the city, said Mike Fruth, Greenfield utility director. When a new development plans to locate in Greenfield and put in what will eventually become public infrastructure, the city signs off on performance bonds as an insurance of sorts that the work will be completed to city standards.
Fruth said Meridian East Development Co. went out of business because of the 2008 recession, but the city is not out the money because of the agreement on bonds. Rather, the company that agreed to hold bonds for the project will have to hire somebody else to finish it up.
“We contact the bonding company and basically state that per the warranty, the form of surety, we will request that the bonding company step in and complete the work,” Fruth said.
While there’s no timetable in place yet, the streets will finally get a top coat, and sidewalks along community lots will be built. Fruth said work could occur this summer, but it will take time to notify the Bond Safeguard Insurance Co. and for the company to research the project and get bids from new contractors.
Still, it’s good news for residents of the neighborhood, said Redick and Josh Stangle. Stangle, treasurer of the homeowners association, said it could mean new life for the neighborhood.
“Our community was one of the poster children for the housing bubble,” said Stangle, adding that M&I Homes has since come in and continued to build homes for the first phase of the neighborhood but does not have plans to extend the neighborhood to the original plan of 240 houses.
Streets are a common complaint among the neighbors. The city street department clears streets in the winter, but they can never be completely cleared because a plow on the base surface of asphalt would hurt the pavement even more, Redick said. It’s also a rough ride for the dozens of children on their bicycles in the spring and summer.
Stangle said not only are the streets bad in the neighborhood, but it’s also hard to keep the clubhouse and pool going – amenities many people bought their homes for. The homeowners association held a meeting last July to discuss the aging clubhouse and maintenance to the pool. They considered closing the pool, but the majority of neighbors agreed they’d pay higher annual dues – more than $200 more a year – to help keep the neighborhood afloat.
Stangle said the neighborhood’s financial struggle is improving, and they were glad to hear of the city taking action.
City Councilman John Patton had stepped in to help the neighborhood. Patton was contacted because he lives in the north side Copeland Farms neighborhood, which has the same management company as Meridian East.
“It’s one of those things where their development kind of got to be orphaned, and it’s just sort of sitting there, and nobody was doing anything,” Patton said.
Patton attended a neighborhood meeting last month, and within two weeks the board of works defaulted on the bonds. Fruth said this is the only neighborhood in Greenfield to have had its bonds defaulted because of the recession, but it’s happened in several communities throughout central Indiana.
Redick is hopeful with better streets and a neighborhood association that has come together to save its pool and community building, the future is brighter for the community. Perhaps, he said, improvements will encourage a new developer to develop more properties to the north and east.
“It might entice a builder and developer to go ahead and build the rest of it,” he said.