Old Trail Village

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If you’ve visited Crozet you know it is both a quaint, quiet village and a rapidly growing part of our area. Located 12 miles west of Charlottesville, it has panoramic mountain views, restaurants, shops, vineyards and recreational activities. While the community plans to build a new library, if you want to borrow a book today you still will find it by visiting the historic old train station in the center of town.  Crozet is also known as the setting for the film Evan Almighty and for the Mrs. Murphy mysteries featuring felines and their companion animals by local author Rita Mae Brown and her cat Sneaky Pie Brown. 

Crozet was named for Colonel Claudius Crozet, a French engineer who built the Blue Ridge railroad and tunnels. Once known primarily for its orchards, it is now home to companies such as Musictoday.com and Starr Hill Brewery. The addition of Harris Teeter and surrounding stores and restaurants make Crozet a popular spot for people seeking to live in a rural setting with spectacular scenery and still have all the conveniences plus an easy daily commute.
 
People wanting to relocate to Crozet can choose from a number of fine subdivisions of which a favorite is Old Trail Village. Old Trail is a walkable community that features a village center that is easily accessible to all residents. The village center offers shops, restaurants, and a place to sit with friends and enjoy a good cup of coffee. It also has medical, dental and real estate offices and services such as the elegant Face Value hair salon and ACAC. Located at the heart of Old Trail, the village center is a gathering place where neighbors can come together and become friends. 
 
While many neighborhoods feature a particular price range of homes, part of the attraction of Old Trail is that it offers something for everyone, including apartments, townhomes, starter homes, estate quality homes and everything in between. In addition, in May of this year, The Lodge at Old Trail will open. The Lodge is a senior living facility that offers independent living apartments, assisted living, and special care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. These many varieties of housing options throughout Old Trail allow residents to enjoy a diverse community with many special benefits including those of living in historic Crozet.
 
Community Ties
Old Trail is part of a movement called New Urbanism. According to Andrea McNeil, Director of Marketing and Business Development for Old Trail, this describes communities designed to be “connected and accessible. In other words, amenities are all within walking distance of every residence.”
 
This kind of accessibility is convenient and also helps promote a sense of community. Jonathan Kauffmann, an Old Trail resident who is the Principal Broker for Nest Realty, explained that many people today seek a community where they can meet people, enjoy common activities and find a sense of belonging. “There is a trend in real estate which is that many home buyers want neighborhoods. Old Trail is filling a niche for these buyers,” he said.
 
Community fun is especially evident during holidays when Old Trail has functions such as Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts. Halloween is a tremendous event,” said Greg Slater, an Old Trail resident and REALTOR® with Nest Realty. “Last year we finally ran out of candy after serving 200 children.” 
 
In the summertime, an event called Fridays After Five, West is popular. This relaxed gathering and potluck for families and friends, adults and children, is for everyone whether or not they live in Old Trail. Other enjoyable activities include campouts on the commons and a community garden, added Kauffmann.
 
Recreation
Among the many things to do in the Crozet area are outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, running, biking and sports. Amenities available at Old Trail, which facilitate these activities, are “open to everyone. Old Trail Village was created and is always open to all,” McNeill explained.
 
If you are a golfer, check out the privately owned public golf course at Old Trail that is open to anyone who wants to play. It features a regulation 18-hole course with great views and has a pro shop and lessons for those who want to improve their skills. Tennis fans have free use of the courts at Western Albemarle High School. For swimmers, paid memberships in the Old Trail Swim Club are open to residents as well as anyone from the greater community who want to swim and relax surrounded by gorgeous mountain views.
 
A recently opened Albemarle County park located within Old Trail’s boundaries has walking trails, a shelter, sports fields, and a protected wetlands area which is home to wildlife. Runners and walkers can also enjoy a regulation 3.2 mile cross country trail that winds in and around Old Trail. Donated by the Beights Corporation, developers of Old Trail, the course was built by funds from a non-profit organization that supports track and field activities at Western Albemarle High School. It is open to the public except during competition events. There are also 6+ miles of walking and biking trails within Old Trail, all open to the public.
 
The Village Center
Justin Kent, a REALTOR® with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III, who represents Craig Builders, described Old Trail’s village center as “the heart of our community.” It is the gathering place where people come to enjoy a cup of coffee, have a meal out, get their hair cut or work out at the gym. 
 
The village center concept is one reason people choose Old Trail. “Most neighborhoods have some kind of social life,” explained Kauffmann, ‘but most don’t have a central meeting place.” The village center provides that and for local residents it is easily accessible by walking or a short drive.
 
The Lodge at Old Trail
There is a lot of excitement in the Crozet/Old Trail community about the senior living facility called The Lodge, scheduled to open in May of this year. Steve White, a REALTOR® with Roy Wheeler Realty Company, described The Lodge as “fantastic.” People with elderly parents now have a place for them to live that is right in the neighborhood…a place they can walk to for visits. “Not only is it a beautiful building,” White said, “but the concept is great for the community.” 
 
Slater agreed saying it adds “tremendous value” and makes Old Trail a multi-generational community. It is also a source of jobs and that benefits everyone in the area, he added.
David Hilliard, owner and developer of The Lodge, is passionate about his project. He explained that senior living facilities commonly are located on the fringes where land is cheap. Friends and family members must go out of their way to visit, and the trips often become a chore rather than an outing to look forward to. 
 
The Lodge, on the other hand, was intentionally located near the village center. This makes it possible for family members to easily drop by and take their elderly relatives out for coffee, or for grandma and grandpa to bump into their grandchild and her friends when she is riding a bike and they are taking a stroll on the walking trails. Three generations of a family can go together to the park for a picnic, or meet up at Friday’s After Five, West. In this kind of setting, family interactions are more fun because they are a casual part of daily life instead of occasional uncomfortable meetings in a sterile and unfamiliar environment.
 
Putting seniors in the center of things is also a way of acknowledging that they are an important part of the community where, said McNeill, “they continue to contribute and remain active throughout their experience in Old Trail Village.”
 
The Lodge also will be a place for special events open to everyone. One of these features wine, cheese and a speaker and happens every third Thursday. All adults are welcome. Hilliard said at one such event they planned for 100 and had to start turning people away when more than 130 people turned out. He said it’s a great way to meet people of all ages. “Bring mom and go out to dinner afterwards,” he suggests. For more information The Lodge has its own website at lodgeatoldtrail.com.   
 
Crozet Real Estate Market
In a 2011 year end blog post, Jim Duncan, a REALTOR® with Nest Realty, reported that the Crozet area real estate market still suffered from excess inventory, which can cause unstable or declining prices, homes staying too long on the market and continuing foreclosures and short sales. However, there were also some positive signs, including a decrease in the number of active listings, and more pendings (or homes under contract) than in 2009 and 2010. In addition, the number of homes sold in this area area was up compared to previous years. All of these figures suggest a slow but steady recovery of the market in western Albemarle County.
 
Figures for Old Trail are even more impressive. In their 2011 Annual Home Sales Report, the Beights Corporation stated that in 2011 average sales prices increased 12 percent, median sales prices, 16 percent, a noteworthy result in the current real estate market. Further, while the average home in Charlottesville sold for 5 percent less than its original list price, in Old Trail, in 2011, on average homes sold for 101 percent of their original list price. While an impressive indication of demand for homes in this popular neighborhood, this figure also reflects in part the high volume of new homes being sold whose prices tend to rise as buyers select upgrades during the construction process, McNeill explained.
 
REALTORS® were equally optimistic about the prospects for 2012. White described Old Trail as “the fastest growing neighborhood in central Virginia,” and was enthusiastic about the future. His compnany has sponsored several successful seminars for people in Charlottesville looking to down size and/or for retirement housing in this area.
 
Kauffmann described the market as “very strong,” with sales continuing to increase. “People want community,” he said, “and they are drawn to the variety of housing options available in Old Trail, which can accommodate first timers to those seeking larger homes. In addition,” he explained, “the builders are cooperative and willing to work with buyers to give them the house they want.”
 
Kent agreed emphasizing that a new home can be anything from an attached one-level townhome to a more traditional three story model with an attached garage to maintenance-free golf villas to just about every other style of single family home.
 
Celeste Smucker is a writer, editor and author of Sold on Me, Daily Inspiration for Real Estate Agents. She lives near Charlottesville
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