By Jantzen Haley | Photography by Jeff Montgomery |
In 2007, the idea for Legacy Park was conceived. The vision included a new concept for student housing as well as individually-owned private homes. In 2016, these homes started becoming a reality as Legacy Park Phase IV, the first residential phase, launched, and the 20 home sites were quickly procured. Phase V is now underway with 20 additional home sites mapped out on the west side of campus.
Dr. David B. Burks, chancellor and spearhead of the Legacy Park vision, says the plans have unfolded exactly as anticipated, with larger homes, smaller homes and student apartments coming together as part of an urban, residential community.
“It’s great for university students to be able to interact with residents wherever they are and vice versa,” Burks says. “It simply upgrades the west end of campus. This is a revitalization of that area with beautiful homes. The architecture of Legacy Park will show value for years and years and years to come.”
We couldn’t agree more, so we took a stroll through the neighborhood and learned from several homeowners what it is like to be a resident in the Legacy Park community.
Hospitality emanates from the Waltons the moment they greet us as we make our way up the sidewalk. You’d never know their home was about two months shy of being livable. Terri ushers us inside where a couple of workers are busy installing cabinets in the kitchen. Natural light shines in from the many windows in the spacious living room, where we congregate around a table saw and stand in a midst of sawdust. It’s here we learn that Terri drew the plans for the house herself.
“I drew the initial plans and was told I needed to cut it down to 30 feet wide,” Terri says. “And then I was told I needed to bring it in another foot, so side to side, the house is 29 feet wide.”
She goes on to add that the stairs were the most difficult part to get just right. Her husband, Mitch, jokes that the drawing process came with many eraser shavings, but it’s clear as we make our way through each room that every detail was crafted with much thought and precision.
The Waltons moved to Searcy after receiving the news that their first grandchild was on the way. Four years later, they were looking for something permanent.
“If we were going to stay here, we wanted to put down roots,” Mitch said. “We started looking for lots, and we saw several but couldn’t make a decision. We’d come up here in the evenings to walk on campus, and we started to see these houses going up. We’d walk into these houses as they were being framed and thought, ‘How about this right here?’ You can enjoy all the things that are going on around campus — there’s just something nice about living in a college town.”
Terri described their Craftsman-style home as we made our way from the living room into the kitchen and throughout the rest of the rooms. Characterized by expansive porch space and a practical floor plan, the layout has a logical flow and welcoming feel. While the width of the house is a mere 29 feet, the depth provides ample space for every feature the Waltons desire and more.
The first floor is home to the living room, kitchen, laundry room, master bedroom and bath, office, full second bathroom, front porch, back porch, screened side porch and spacious garage with extra storage. A library space greets you upstairs and branches off to two bedrooms, a full bathroom, an upstairs living space, more storage and another porch overlooking green space toward campus.
In line with the exterior architecture style, the interior boasts natural light, lots of built-ins and wainscoting. As with any home-building process, there were bumps along the road, plan approvals to achieve, and last-minute changes to be made, but Mitch and Terri both found the process thoroughly enjoyable.
Practicality and elegance grace every inch of the home, even before floors are finished and walls are painted. Though Mitch and Terri agree that the hardest part is yet to come — picking out final paint colors, light fixtures, mirrors and more — they cannot wait to greet and host guests in their new home. In fact, we are not the first to tour the unfinished home, as many of their friends have already stopped by for a tour during its construction.
Already, they are meeting neighbors and finding a place in their Legacy Park community, having attended a neighborhood block party, meeting many fellow homeowners, and enjoying the perks of sporting events, campus use, chapel and campus activities.
Discovering city life
After living near the end of a country road for years, the Corkers purchased a lot and moved into town. When we visited, they had lived there five weeks, and all four seemed to be adjusting to “city life” quite well.
Accustomed to the country commute, Bobby and Karen quite like the new accessibility of living on campus — Karen, especially, as she is several months into a new job as director of accounting for the University. With two new drivers on their hands, as well, the Corkers are much more comfortable with letting twins Hayden and Hunter take to the roads at night now that they are in such close proximity to everything.
Their previous home sold in just three weeks, and they had to be out a short three weeks after that. During the building process — for more than a year — the Corkers lived with Karen’s father, so when move-in day arrived, they were more than ready to have their own space again.
Each member of the Corker clan has spoken for their favorite space. Karen’s claim is the open kitchen, which leads right into the living room and is the perfect place to host guests. As a matter of fact, though they had only called this place home for five weeks when we stopped by, the Corkers had hosted some type of get-together four of the five weekends. Their sons’ top pick was their second-floor porch, right off each of their rooms upstairs. The view looks out over the neighboring homes and toward the campus entrance. Karen is quick to speak on Bobby’s behalf that their bathroom holds his favor.
Hayden and Hunter had a large say in the design process for their rooms, picking out everything from paint colors and furniture to light fixtures and doorknobs. There may or may not have been some “Fixer Upper” influence to their decisions.
A bonus for the timing of their move-in, Karen was asked if a group of interior design students could use different rooms in the home for a project. Free design advice sounded like a good deal, so the decorating was yet to be complete pending the design presentations set to occur a couple of weeks after our visit.
The open floor plan was immediately inviting, but several other features stood out as we made our way through the house. Branching off from the living room is a small office space with a stunning shiplap-covered ceiling, built-in desk and Coca-Cola décor (appropriate as Bobby and Karen have spent much of their careers working for the employer in Little Rock). Care and detail was catered to throughout the house, down to the decorative knobs chosen for each room, including fun mechanical gear-like features in one of the boys’ rooms upstairs.
The Corkers have a separate garage with a two-bedroom apartment above. It is currently rented to two students, but the boys plan to attend Harding in two years and have grand plans to find the perfect renters. Karen’s not sure about the idea, but she and Bobby built it with flexibility in mind.
“We can always Airbnb it,” Karen says. “There are enough people who come to stay … or I can put my scrapbook stuff up here, and if there’s nobody out here, the boys and their friends can come out, turn the couch and put a TV on the wall.”
Just five weeks in, they’ve adjusted to the lights and sirens in the city, and it’s clear that the Corkers are happy with the move and excited to grow roots in their Legacy Park home.
When Dr. Burks first spoke to the faculty about the initial vision for Legacy Park Residential, Britt and Ashley Lynn knew they wanted to be in on the ground floor of the operation. In fact, when the lots went up for sale, the Lynns knew precisely where they wanted to build, and Britt was at Dr. Burks’ office by 8:05 that morning to stake his claim.
Shortly thereafter, the Lynns began the design process. They fell in love with a set of plans designed originally for a community in the Pacific Northwest overlooking a lake. One could argue that the green space and campus view outside the beautiful windows in the Lynns’ home make an even more picturesque backdrop.
Speaking of backdrop, the very first item they found for the entire house was a blue and gray backsplash for the kitchen that wound up setting the tone for both the interior and exterior of the house with the exception of the impossible-to-miss Tennessee Volunteers orange door — a tribute to Britt’s favorite team — on the back of the house leading to the garage apartment they rent to students.
Full of rich colors and magnificent light fixtures, the living, dining and kitchen areas greet guests with a distinct and exciting atmosphere. The open floor plan is perfect for hosting, and it’s clear the Lynns view their home as an opportunity to connect and build relationships.
“One of the things that they pitched to the faculty was living in a community where you’re living alongside students, where you can bring your mission into your house,” Britt says. “We have students over to hang out or have lunch. It’s been a really positive change because it has integrated us into the community of students a whole lot more, which we wanted.”
They moved in February 2018 and love the convenience and opportunity that living on campus provides their family — from walking to work in the mornings to meeting friends at Midnight Oil and Starbucks, to walking several blocks to the square and local restaurants in downtown Searcy.
While the Lynns enjoy the conveniences of campus and the community of their fellow neighbors, the advantages reach beyond those of the individual families building and living in Legacy Park Residential. Britt speaks to the benefits for the Harding and Searcy communities as well.
“I have to start with what I consider to be the heart of Harding, which is the students,” Britt says. “As beneficial as it is for a faculty member to come over here and be surrounded by a community of other people that are invested in the students, I think it’s beneficial for the students to see that there are people who model integrating faith and living.”
He says there also is potential for improving the relationship between Harding and Searcy as we grow beyond campus and integrate into the heart of the community as residents.
“You’re not separated by giant yards,” he says. “You see when another person is on the porch, and when you’re on the porch you talk to each other. It’s a really quick and easy way to build community — if you see someone outside, you’re outside, and you just have a conversation. I have loved living in this community. It has been a really positive experience.”
The real story
Communities may be defined by a geographic area, a common interest, a set of values and beliefs, or simply by the name they bear. At Harding, community means all these things and more, and the vision of Legacy Park Residential is to invite others to build a home in the heart of the Harding community. Dr. Burks says it best: “[Legacy Park Residential] is more than just the houses that are built there. It is the community that we’re attempting to build. The homes are beautiful, but it’s the community that we are trying to establish. That is really the story.”