Breaking ground

Veridian’s Chris Ehlers (left), David Simon (middle) and landowner Kurt Breunig (right) break ground on the new Heritage Hills subdivision. The development will be located directly west of Schumacher Farm Park, along County Hwy. 19.

Veridian Homes has broken ground on a mixed-use development west of Schumacher Farm Park. The 160-acre subdivision – Heritage Hills – will be built out over the next 10-12 years.

“We are excited to be in the community,” said Director of Operations Chris Ehlers. “Ultimately, it came down to a lot of tough decisions where we were trying to keep our home prices attainably priced without incurring too many costs. And now we’re able to move forward with building this.”

Plans for the development include 478 single-family homes, 200 multi-family residential units, approximately 20 acres of dedicated park space and a 4.9-acre farm mixed-use center.

The first phase of the project was approved in May, and broke ground late last week.

The June 25 groundbreaking followed early debate between the developer and village officials regarding cost share for road improvements on streets bordering the subdivision.

“The trustees had a couple closed-session meetings,” Ehlers said, “but they were very productive and put a lot of thought into those decisions. So we’re very grateful for that. The decisions that were made were very fair, on both the village’s part and our behalf.”

The municipality ultimately agreed to pay 25 percent of the cost for extending Division Street, which borders the subdivision to the west. The project is estimated to cost $300,000 to $400,000.

Other discussion revolved around the price point of homes in the subdivision.

The Waunakee Housing Task Force identified a need for more affordable housing in the village, during a recent housing study. Veridian said that the average price of a home would be $365,000.

“The housing study put together was the best housing study I’ve seen of any municipality that we’ve worked with,” Ehlers said. “We’re going to put that housing study to use here, and you’re going to see that come to life here in the next year. So let’s hope that information is accurate, because that’s what we’re banking on.”

Also speaking at last week’s groundbreaking ceremony was Kurt Breunig, whose family agreed to sell its land to the developer after farming it for the better part of a century.

The farmer fought back tears throughout the entirety of his speech.

“It’s a very emotional day for myself and my family,” Breunig said. “Veridian has been phenomenal to work with. And I want to thank the village board for looking outside of the box, because this is something unique to the village.”

Breunig recalled the day he and his wife received a phone call from Veridian, late last January.

“Peggy and I were just at the point where we were getting ready to head out on vacation,” Breunig said. “We’d had several inquiries like this over our history here, so it was one of those that I blew off because I didn’t want to deal with it. But when we got back, there was a message.”

Breunig and his wife decided to check out the developer’s offer, seeing that they had entertained others in the past. Their only request…that the plan include affordable housing opportunities.

“They said, ‘We want something that will offer different types of housing,’” Ehlers recalled, “‘but also give people who grew up here the opportunity to move back Waunakee – something they can afford.’”

They gave Veridian 30 days to come back with a proposal that incorporated that request.

The developer returned with plans for what will now be known as the Heritage Hills subdivision, and received the Breunigs’ blessing.

“The Breunigs had faith in us to do the right thing with their property,” Veridian President of Operations David Simon said, “building a community that has a variety of housing types and price points that everyone can enjoy – from a first-time homebuyer to a senior who wants to live here… And we’re passionate about it, because this is going to be here for centuries.”

Breunig said he hopes the land brings as much joy to future families as it did his own.

“The Breunig family has farmed this land for more than 70 years,” Breunig said. “We look forward to watching it transition from our family farm to a neighborhood for families in all stages of their lives. We hope they enjoy this land as much as we have.”

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