Berryville native unveils his plan to develop 180-acre Arthur Carter estate

Monday, June 12, 2006

BERRYVILLE -- The potential for hundreds of new homes is on the horizon in Berryville, with Pesca Construction poised to purchase 180 acres.

The acreage includes 100 acres in city limits and another 80 outside. It is the late Judge Arthur Carter's estate, held in trust with all proceeds going to the care of his surviving wife Marie, who now resides in Pea Ridge.

Closing on the property is expected to take place any day.

Gary Myers, a Berryville native and vice president of Pesca, said the purchase does not include the Carter family home and the one acre on which it sits.

Myers said he was excited to have landed such a property, which lies just south of Saunders Heights Mountain.

He said the 100 acres in city limits has seven access points, city water at each of those points, plus a water main in the center and sewer at two locations.

"I know every inch of the place from playing on it as a kid," he said. "I'm tickled. This is a great opportunity. It's a unique piece of property for its size in the city."

The other 80 acres, he said, will be sold off, or developed into ranchettes at a later date.

Myers' immediate plans call for construction of 75 homes in Phase I of the project. He expects to break ground by Thanksgiving.

Those homes, he said, will be constructed similar to homes Pesca is building in the Hailey Hills Subdivision and priced affordably "so people can buy a new home instead of rent," he said.

"If we build quality, with two-by-six exterior walls and energy efficient cellulose insulation, they'll buy it, especially in our price range," he added.

According to Myers, the Hailey Hills homes have ranged from $86,000 to $107,000 and every one has sold before completion.

While striving to provide quality homes at an affordable price, Myers said the most important aspect of Pesca is retaining hometown people to get the job done.

"All workers on the developments are hometown people," he said. "No one outside Carroll County works on our properties. We keep everything in this community."

Gary, a charter member of the Carroll County Homebuilders Association, said all of the subcontractors are members, as are the mortgage brokers and material providers.

Myers said he'll spend more than $2 million purchasing building materials from one Berryville supplier this year alone.

"That's money that stays in the community," he said.

Stephen Sharpe, president of Pesca, explained the history of the business, whose name translates as "fish" in Spanish.

"It was started by Gary, a Berryville High School graduate who came home from the military where he was Top Gun, to help his family with the construction business, Keith and Myers Construction."

Stephen said Gary also started a log home business, Heartwood Log Homes, one of the largest log home kit dealers in the area, and sold a 7,000 square-foot log home to his parents, Martha and Shelby Sharpe, for their property near Kingston.

While the Keith and Myers crew was constructing the home, Gary and Shelby discussed the need for affordable homes in the area, a market that was wide open, Stephen said. "Gary told him no one was building for the average worker at a price they could afford."

From that conversation, Stephen said, Pesca was born with himself as president, Gary vice president, and his dad, a Fort Worth attorney, as secretary, providing financial backing from the law firm.

"Our intent wasn't to come here to make a million," said Stephen, "but to meet the need of a community and the people who couldn't afford the houses that were being built."

Stephen said he previously worked as a real estate tax consultant in Fort Worth. "I spent eight years in corporate America before Gary suggested we build houses," he recalled. "Saving a company like Hard Rock Cafe several million dollars versus getting people into new homes -- that was an easy choice for me."

He said Pesca began its "mission" of providing quality affordable homes in the Hailey Hills Subdivision nearly two years ago, with all homes sold or under contract before construction was complete.

"We did four homes the first year, we've sold two that haven't been started yet and we have another five under contract and in construction," he said.

Pesca not only has Gary "as the construction brains," he said, but other Myers family members help out, such as Gary's brother Billy Myers running the crews and pulling the permits.

According to Stephen, homes constructed on the Carter estate will be offered in different price ranges but "won't deviate from Pesca's mission and range of $90,000 to $110,000."

He said Pesca's homebuilding is financially backed by a local bank, which has also provided nearly all of the financing for their home buyers.

"The money for the Carter property came from out of state," he said, "although we gave a couple of local banks first crack at it."

"In this," added Gary, "we hope to make a living to meet a need. Like Sam Walton, we want to make it 'a-nickel-at-a-time.'"

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