By Joanne DiMaggio

At first glance, there isn't a lot that's different in Crozet today as opposed to a year ago-with a few notable exceptions-but the changes that are taking place in this beautiful community are definitely appealing to homebuyers. The long-awaited opening of the new Harris Teeter is without doubt the biggest news coming out of Crozet in a while.

"The new Harris Teeter is the biggest recent addition to the Crozet business scene," said Jonathan Kauffmann, Principal Broker/Owner of Nest Realty. "It's the first LEED-built Harris Teeter in the country and it's drawing shoppers from Ivy to Nelson County."

Harris Teeter opened its Crozet store in the Blue Ridge Shopping Center on Route 250 in May, adding some 60 jobs for Crozet and Charlottesville residents. The 42,000-square-foot store is designed to meet LEED standards. Built from 38% recycled materials, it is 25% more energy-efficient and has a water usage reduction of over 40%-all things important to a community interested in sustainability and preservation.

"The new Harris Teeter is a boon to the community so everybody doesn't have to go to Charlottesville to shop at a Harris Teeter anymore," said Phillipa "Flip" Faulconer, Principal Broker/Owner of Stevens & Company.

The Old Trail Village Center is also brimming with news. "The Village Center is 100% leased and the first business, Face Value Studio, opened a few weeks ago," said Kauffmann. "Trailside Coffee, Anna's Pizza, and da Luca Café and Wine Bar will be opening later this summer. ACAC also will be opening its doors before the end of the year. And the Old Trail community pool is scheduled to be completed in July."

Kauffmann said he is especially happy to see new coffee houses like Trailside Coffee opening in Crozet. "It's exciting that we have a few coffee shops coming-including the Mudhouse in the Square. Those will be great gathering places for the entire community."

Desirable Housing

In real estate, it's always about "location, location, location" and Crozet has the enviable position of being ideally situated along the I-64 corridor approximately 12 miles west of Charlottesville and 21 miles east of Staunton. Its location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains makes its natural scenery one of its distinguishing features and one of the reasons why it is growing in popularity as far as residential housing is concerned.

Faulconer reports that there are approximately 160 residential listings in Crozet that are either active, contingent, pending, or sold. "I think there's maybe 70 active and 50 sold and the contingent and pending are pretty close, maybe 20/20. That's all mostly new construction within the past five years."

Kauffmann admits the number of sales has fallen, reflecting the rest of the area's real estate market.

"The Crozet housing market has definitely suffered a bit in the current economy," he said. "Home sales to date are off about 35% from 2008 and I'd estimate that prices are off by 5-10%. New home sales also have backed off in the last year, partly because new home construction has slowed significantly throughout the entire region. However, the price adjustments are helping with affordability throughout Crozet and average DOM (days on market) for sold homes has actually dropped in 2009."

Kauffmann is quick to point out that there are a few bright spots in Crozet. "Grayrock and the new section of Western Ridge have been selling quite well. There have been a few sales in the new Liberty Hall neighborhood and some parts of Old Trail have been selling."

Faulconer identified what she considers to be Crozet's residential hot spots.

"Cory Farms on Route 250 is the most established newer neighborhood outside the hub of downtown Crozet. Along Jarman Gap Road there is Grayrock, Grayrock North, and Bargamin Park. They're all one right after the other, across from the back entrance to Old Trail. They're very neat looking-they look like Cape Cod cottages, small lots but very neat and tidy. Crozet always has been an affordable place, but there's never been any new construction, so this has fit a huge hole."

In terms of up-and-coming areas, Kauffmann said there is site work and development in Foothill Crossing, which is southwest of Western Ridge. There is construction in a new area of Old Trail-West End Square-slated to begin this summer, which will offer single-family homes starting under $300,000.

Careful Planning

With the Crozet Master Plan revision currently being discussed, a priority among residents is the "ultimate build-out population." Many do not want the population to exceed 12,500 residents (the current population is around 5,500). Long-time residents are concerned about losing Crozet's seclusion and slow pace of life. For this reason, residential development is under the watchful eye of concerned citizens. The Crozet Master Plan was developed to regulate development patterns and provide a public forum for discussing the topic.

"I think one of the goals of the Crozet Master Plan is to avoid any resemblance to Route 29 in Charlottesville," said Kauffmann. "Residents are working hard on this plan to keep the small-town feeling that Crozet has. The Master Plan is using ‘new urban' principles to connect neighborhoods and to create mixed-use environments where people can walk or bike places."

Faulconer said buyers wishing to reside in Crozet have very good reasons for choosing this smaller community. "You've got the easy access to the University. Old Trail has some incredible biking trails. You can't go any faster than 25 m.p.h. in there, so your kids are very safe. The same with Cory Farms. The main thing is it's more affordable, but then you also have all the schools right there. You can get on I-64 and get in town and no traffic. I was showing a house in Cory Farms recently. They were at the end of a cul de sac and had the most beautiful views-just phenomenal. If you can't own the mountain, it's a nice place to be within view of one."

Faulconer added that when she first came to Crozet, it was very much a rural community. "Crozet was all farms. My children thought they had gone to the country."

And that's the atmosphere Crozet continues to exude. "Crozet offers a small-town feel, just minutes to Charlottesville," said Kauffmann. "It's definitely a slower pace of life than in some other areas of Albemarle County. Crozet also offers great Blue Ridge views and easy access to lots of outdoor activities-from Chiles Peach Orchard to Mint Springs Park to Beaver Creek."

Kauffmann says another plus he's seen in the five years since he sold his first home in Crozet is the increase in the variety of restaurants and shopping options for residents.

"Residents no longer need to drive to Charlottesville every day," he said. "It's becoming more of a self-sufficient community. In addition, the growth in Waynesboro has added more options for restaurants, shopping, and entertainment just 12 miles to the west."

Faulconer agrees. "Crozet is pretty. Waynesboro has grown by leaps and bounds and has other restaurants and retail businesses that we don't have. You can get to Wintergreen in a heartbeat. What a beautiful place."

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