Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, May 21, 2021

Builder sells Brit charm with ‘Canterbury’

Homes at The Reserves at Canterbury Fields in Ooltewah will sport modern European style with Tudor influences. - Photograph provided

Realtor, developer and builder Kelly Jooma is standing on a dirt road at the foot of White Oak Mountain in Ooltewah. From her vantagepoint, she can see Ooltewah Georgetown Road to her left. To her right, a curve bends the dirt road around a nestle of trees.

It’s been only a few days since heavy equipment scraped the once untended land to create the dusty surface. In about a month, still more equipment will pave it, creating a thoroughfare for vehicles.

This is no generic dirt road, however. Despite looking like an ordinary stretch of earth and rock, it already has a name: Sir Oliphant Way.

Someday, Jooma says, sidewalks will flank either side of Sir Oliphant’s blacktop, and newly built homes will span its length. At certain points, other roads will branch off from Sir Oliphant and extend the tableau in new directions.

Students of Middle English literature will likely smile when they see the names of the other roads, which include Becket Way, Palamon Place and Eglantine Trail.

Jooma and her team of Realtors, developers and builders mined the names of the streets from “The Canterbury Tales,” a collection of 24 stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer during the 14th century.

She also pulled the development’s moniker – The Reserves at Canterbury Fields – from Chaucer’s work.

Jooma says she’s referencing “The Canterbury Tales” because she wants the development to have more than a recognizable name and wants it to tell a story about people coming together to create a new community.

“Everyone names their subdivision, but how many subdivisions have a story behind them?” she asks. “We named the streets and even the homes after characters in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ as our way of telling the story of this place and the people who come here.”

The stories of “The Canterbury Tales” are framed around the journey of 30 pilgrims to the shrine of Sir Thomas Becket in Canterbury, Kent. As they travel, the pilgrims engage in a storytelling contest.

“This journey was Chaucer’s way of bringing people from many different walks of life together in one place,” Jooma adds. “In the same way, we hope our new development will bring people together to share their stories with one another.”

To foster this community, Jooma will build amenities designed to encourage its residents to leave their homes and interact with each other, she says.

Fountains will spray the waters of a retaining pond in decorative patterns as people circle the shoreline on 5-foot-wide sidewalks. Those who wish to venture further will be able to hike the trails that will snake throughout Canterbury Fields’ 40-odd acres.

After residents work up a sweat on the winding paths, a hardscaped pool that bears more than a passing resemblance to a spa will welcome them to its cool depths.

Later, as the sun sets, Jooma envisions people gathering at a fire pit, opening bottles of wine and sharing the stories of their day.

“It’s going to be about coming out of your house and spending time in the community,” she points out. “We want to see people walking their dogs and kids in strollers.”

Finally, a clubhouse will serve as an event space residents will be able to use for any number of occasions.

While there’s more, Jooma says she needs to hold those cards close to her chest until it’s official. Suffice to say she hopes to give people even more reasons to leave their homes but not their community.

“We don’t want people to have to go anywhere else.”

To provide residents with plenty of neighbors to befriend, Canterbury will contain 101 houses built in three phases. Most of the dwellings in the community will cost between $450,000 and 800,000 for 2,400 to 2,700 square feet.

The style of homes is best described as modern European with Tudor influences and beautiful architectural details, Jooma says. Moreover, luxury finishes will be standard.

“You can expect quartz countertops, custom closet organizers in the master closet, gorgeous beam details, accent walls and high-end appliances,” Jooma reports.

Jooma is particularly proud that homes in Canterbury will feature natural gas for heating and cooking. While she says it cost her a pretty penny to get it, she insisted on having it.

“We had to make that happen because we know people want it.”

Residents also are going to want privacy, Jooma admits, so each property will come with a secluded backyard. “No one will butt up against another yard. When you sit in your backyard, you’ll be looking at the woods, or a greenspace or a farm.”

Jooma Development – which consists of Jooma and her husband, Mark Jooma – purchased the land for Canterbury in 2020. The project then moved to K&M Homes, the builder the Joomas own.

Joining K&M Homes in raising houses in Canterbury is Embark Homes, a Chattanooga-based custom builder.

K&M has selected six floorplans for the project, while Embark has contributed four, but Jooma says clients are welcome to bring in their own designs – providing they’re willing to allow Canterbury’s designer to modify the exterior to match the rest of the development.

Like any neighborhood under development, Canterbury has presented Jooma with her share of challenges, not the least of which was the discovery of an underground spring. But she says the most difficult obstacle to overcome has been the cost and availability of building supplies.

However, she says she and her team have devised solutions that will allow the project to move forward without delays – or worse.

“We’re watching the price of lumber closely, and once someone is under contract, we price the home accordingly and lay its foundation.”

The National Association of Home Builders reports lumber prices have increased more than 200% since April 2020. The price for 1,000 board feet surpassed $1,100 in mid-April, up from less than $500 in June 2020, the organization reports.

Jooma says K&M Homes builds potential increases in lumber into the cost of a home through the use of an escalation clause in the contract with the client. While the builder is contractually bound to absorb some of the escalation, the client absorbs most of it.

“Once your house is framed, you’re safe,” Jooma declares. “But that number has to be right in the beginning or you can run into problems.”

Builders today are also wrestling with shortages of the other materials that go into a home, reports the NAHB. Jooma says K&M Homes initially encountered a scarcity of garage doors and black windows, for example, but has implemented workarounds that involve shrewdly timing their orders.

“We know from experience what the delay times are and order accordingly so everything is available on time,” Jooma assures.

Despite the obstacles homebuilders nationwide are experiencing, Jooma is confident K&M and Embark will begin building in July. Not only are two houses located in a cul de sac already under contract, but passersby on Ooltewah Georgetown Road will soon see crews working on 12 houses, as well as the model home, at the front of Canterbury.

Jooma invites Realtors with clients interested in building a home to contact her at 423 400-4183 to acquire information about Canterbury, including floors plans, the plat map, contact details for potential lenders and insurance providers and more.

“We want Realtors to have smart conversations with their buyers,” Jooma says. “We want them to be able to answer every question their clients have so we can then sit down and talk numbers and interior design.”

While Jooma is looking forward to doing business with agents and buyers, she’s especially excited about the stories the residents of Canterbury will tell long after the ink on the contacts is dry.

“Canterbury will be more than a subdivision, it will be a place where young families and retired couples will write their stories and then share them with their neighbors,” she says. “We believe that sense of community will make Canterbury special and draw people here.”