By Beth Lawrence
The community of Forest Hills has some new housing options for students and residents.
The Prospect Western development recently opened its doors to more than 230 incoming Western Carolina University students and began putting the finishing touches on additional family units.
“We’re getting ready to start moving in some of our single family residential tenants,” said Ashley Hill of the Cloverleaf Group development company. “We’ve got 62 units of student living and then we’ve got 14 units of single family defined tenant living.”
Hill believes the two diverse groups of residents can coexist because he and other developers were strategic in planning the community. Student housing is 30 feet uphill away from the family units.
The original plan was for Cloverleaf to build more student housing to accommodate the college. That changed when Forest Hills officials asked for something more.
“We reached out to the leadership of the Village of Forest Hills and sat down with them and shared our vision,” Hill said. “After we shared our vision we stepped back and we listened to what their vision was. We put a lot of ideas and thoughts and visions on the table and, we talked through what was realistic and what wasn’t.”
The end result was that the developers paid attention when Forest Hills leaders expressed a need for more single family housing.
Hill says the communication between the two was “how it ought to be” between project developers and the communities in which they hope to build. He hopes the collaboration will make the housing development part of the greater community.
Forest Hills Mayor Kolleen Begley came away from the experience with much the same feeling.
“The developer has been amicable to work with and has been in constant contact with Forest Hills before and during the development,” Begley said. “We were open to other housing types for residents to call home, and want them to know that they are part of a larger Forest Hills community surrounded by Cullowhee.”
The housing development is not simply apartment units. It contains different types of housing from one bedroom to five bedroom apartments, townhouses and individual cottages in the complex.
There are plans for a small retail area that will benefit both Prospect Western and Forest Hills residents. Architectural plans have not been created for the space yet, but the area has already been zoned for commercial use.
“Another thing that the local leadership talked about is the lack of commercial resources around here – lack of restaurants, lack of office space,” Hill said.
The company is already courting businesses to fill the space.
Developers have designated a green space for residents that would be open to locals from Forest Hills and Cullowhee to use as recreational space or community events including the Whee Market farmers market.
Prospect Western has also partnered with the community to make meeting space available to the town.
“The developer has offered the bottom floor of the Assembly Building, at no charge to our taxpayers, for a designated Forest Hills community building which will finally allow us our first designated meeting place and one space to keep everything,” Begley said. “These combined with the open green space area will give our own community optional places to gather, something that has been lacking since the golf course restaurant closed 20-some years ago.”