GLENVIEW — With a large bulldozer behind him peeling back black folds of soil in Glenview, homebuilder Jerry James strode ahead in a wet, muddy grass field, stepping wide over pooling sinkholes and ruts.
He wore a black suit, dress pants and a crisp white shirt.
“This is why I keep a shoe buffer in the sales office over there,” he said, laughing and looking at his muddied dress shoes.
“Would you like to use it?” he offered.
James is president of Glenview-based Edward R. James Homes, a family-owned company that’s been building in the Chicago area for more than 50 years.
The company’s current high-profile project is Westgate at The Glen, a 29-acre, 171-unit residential community on the former Glenview Naval Air Station property.
Excavating the green site recently started and completing the project is summer 2017, possibly late 2016.
Its grand opening reservation event was May 31, where potential buyers deposited refundable money and could eventually commit to a purchase depending on a home’s final price.
More than 300 prospects and brokers attended the grand opening.
“Demand for homes at Westgate at The Glen has been very strong. In about three weeks, we’ve already sold 34 percent of the community,” James says Tuesday morning.
“I think it’s a strong inkling of what’s to come.”
Because Westgate is the last opportunity for homeowners to live in upscale The Glen — there’s no more residential land parcels to develop — James believed people were very interested in buying.
And The Glen’s amenities were plenty, James pointed out, plus the high quality of homes he has constructed.
“If you can offer customers strong location, product design, pricing and appropriate features, you’re at a real advantage,” James said, listing Westgate’s nearness to the Metra commuter service into downtown Chicago, The Glen’s restaurants and stores and Glenview Park District’s vast green spaces and recreation programs at Park Center.
He also sited two golf courses and Kohl Children’s Museum.
Construction of the 70 row homes, 38 cluster single-family homes and 63 mews town homes will be delivered in two phases.
The first phase includes 38 row homes, all of the cluster single-family homes and 38 mews town homes.
Pricing ranges from the mid-$400,000s for the mews town homes, up to the $800,000s for the cluster single-family homes.
Each of the three different housing options offer three bedrooms, 2½ baths, two-car attached garages, private outdoor spaces, interior finishes and a master suite.
“We’re offering first-floor master bedroom homes for empty nesters. No stairs to climb,” he said.
“And with 10,000 baby boomers reaching the age of 65 every day, there’s a very strong demand for folks to downsize.”
But building the Westgate community did not happen without a hitch— a big one.
In March, Glenview trustees approved final plans to construct the largest church in the village adjacent to Westgate — North Shore congregation of Willow Creek Community Church — ending 10 months of public review and revised traffic and building plans.
The approval also green lighted the construction of James’ homes.
Before then, however, nearby residents had opposed plans to build both projects, citing too much traffic on two-lane West Lake Avenue.
Glenview trustees eventually agreed switching the projects’ land spaces so that the church will relocate from the parcel’s south end to the north, while the homes will occupy the south part at West Lake Avenue and Shermer Road.
The switch, they said, would control traffic flow better, as well as installing a signal light at Greenwood Road and West Lake Avenue and right and left turning lanes.
Another traffic signal is set for West Lake Avenue and Shermer Road this summer, with a right turn lane on West Lake to Shermer.
“The location switch slowed things down back then for us because Westgate had to be re-engineered, and Coral Lane could no longer go all the way through,” James said.
“It’s most important for developers to be able and willing to adjust. People already living in homes near a new development have made commitments to a way of life.
“You need a menu of options; otherwise, you won’t do well in building homes,” he said.