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Tega Cay ignoring recession grinch

TEGA CAY -- Ready or not, here it comes.

Project leaders joined city officials Monday to break ground at the Lake Ridge Amenity Center, a focal point for the 150-acre Lake Ridge at Tega Cay community that will bring 167 homesites to the city within the next five years. The community is the first neighborhood within Lake Ridge, which totals almost 800 homes on 432 acres.

"We need some good news," said Eric Koulpasis with Belmont, N.C., builder Southside Constructors Inc. "It's good to read something positive, something going up, something being built."

Builders and city officials share an optimistic outlook on the project, despite an economy where residential construction shows less than stellar returns. The amenity center will cost $3 million and should open in early summer. The same builder who built The Palisades' clubhouse will be used.

Included are three basketball and two tennis courts, a five-lane competition swimming pool with play area, two miles of walking trails and a 9,500-square-foot clubhouse. In total, Lake Ridge will have more than four miles of walking trails and one-third of the space will remain natural.

"This is a starting block for many great things out here," said City Manager Grant Duffield.

Plans for the community "far exceeded" initial expectations, Duffield said. An arrangement between developer Drake Capital and the city allowed for enhancements, such as the walking trails and open space, as well as a land-use reduction from what could have been as many as 2,400 homesites, he said.

Jeff LeForce, development director for Drake Capital, said the "highly amenitized" Lake Ridge project will succeed despite the current economy. He even moved his family to the area as part of the project.

"Today is about creating a future for hundreds of families who will live here, as well as existing residents of Tega Cay," he said.

Mayor Bob Runde said city residents should celebrate Lake Ridge, first known to the city as Gardendale. Along with the public walking trails, current city residents will benefit most from the 10 acres donated by the developer to begin Catawba River Park, which could include up to 100 acres of recreational amenities.

"They're not only giving us the acreage, they've given us the funding to get started," Runde said.

Seeing the Lake Ridge project through years of development, Runde said it will take shape as planned as buying and selling conditions improve.

"When we first started there wasn't an economic problem," he said. "Now there is. Hopefully, by the time these homes are built, it will turn around."

As for the addition of almost 800 homes, Tom Goebel, city development services director, said Tega Cay is ready.

"We welcome it," he said. "This is our future."

Services and infrastructure are in place, Goebel said, and if the quality of the planned amenity center is any indication, Lake Ridge should be an exemplary community.

"It's a showcase center," he said.

The key to success is not blind optimism, LeForce said, but instead a well-crafted development plan. Lake Ridge, for instance, includes no-maintenance communities for the retired, as well as medium level and larger homes for other buyers.

Tega Cay's location won't hurt either, he said, given its proximity to Lake Wylie, Fort Mill schools and South Carolina taxes.

Lake Ridge at Tega Cay offers 12 floor plans ranging from 2,700 to 4,100 square feet. Prices run in the mid-$400s to mid-$500s.

Project leaders say they have a plan that offers a full view of the city's future.

"Today we're choosing not to participate in this recession," LeForce said.

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