What has happened here should serve as a cautionary tale of how *not* to develop a residential area, and I hope we heed the warning
I guess subdivisions have been around practically forever. However I was fortunate to live out in the country where we had wide open spaces without having to rely on bulldozers to create them. But in any case, no one can argue that the way developers build them today has been a change for the worse. Where once they would work around the trees and with the existing landscape, now they just carpet bomb the entire area, and cram in as many houses as they can with the minimum allowed distance by law between them. Offering lovely views from your backyard like the one below.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Cordova, TN is a suburb of Memphis, TN. When I moved here in 1994, the population was quite small and there were vast stretches of undeveloped land. Berryhill road, near where I live now, provided a venue for a very relaxing drive down a quiet, tree-lined, rural road. Reminded me of home in many ways. sigh...
However, that wouldn't last long. A new type of development was becoming popular. Clear-cut, high density housing. In this type of construction, the first thing the developer does is level everything in sight. We are not talking about just renovating old crop fields, we're talking about taking down entire forests of old growth trees, and the re-routing or filling in of existing creeks and minor waterways if they're in the way. With Cordova being unincorporated and not yet part of any city, there was no formal administrative body to oversee this development and put the proper controls in place.
A pattern of development that was already having a negative impact, accelerated dramatically almost overnight when in 1997 the Wolfchase Galleria Mall opened at I-40 and Germantown Parkway. Where once there was just forests, now there was this monster of a mall. Leech retailers quickly leveled everything in sight around the mall for their own businesses and the area was changed forever.
Right after the mall was constructed we saw a huge surge in development all around Cordova. This continued into 2000 and beyond when not long after 9/11 in 2001, the sub-prime loan market *really* took off and the bulldozers ran non-stop! The destruction was particularly evident along Berryhill Road. Once tree lined practically uninterrupted from Hwy 64 to Macon Road, within a few years there was only one large section of trees remaining totaling about 80 acres. You can see below on Google Earth how it looked back sometime in 2005 with existing high density development already encroaching from the West stopping along the left side of Berryhill road.
The last large stretch of forest on Berryhill, 2005 aerial view
Here it is in 2007, leveled and ready for a 1000 more units woo hoo!....
By 2006, Memphis' annexation of the Cordova area was almost complete with some of the last of the unincorporated areas near Hwy 64 being annexed by the city. Prior to the pending annexation, many went ahead and got out of Cordova, moving to neighboring counties or completely out of the state. Sub-prime loans were still driving a flood of new buyers so developers continued running the building machine at '11' with large sections of forest vanishing in what seemed like a few days.
As for me, I was putting in major hours trying to keep a struggling software company alive. I didn't' think there was a huge rush to do anything since unlike a lot of our new neighbors, we had been there a long time and had built up some equity in our property. I figured the increase in value of our house, though not substantial, would stand and the inevitable tax increase wouldn't pose a significant obstacle to selling our home.
Then in the crap that was the sub-prime market hit the proverbial fan, and suddenly we noticed houses all around being taken back by the banks or going up for auction. Due to loan defaults and foreclosures, several more available houses re-entered a market that was already flooded with excess inventory. For individuals like myself who wanted to sell their homes so they could move, the situation became even more difficult than it already was. With what seemed like a continual supply of new and cheaper homes still being constructed, it became near impossible to attract a buyer for an existing property.
So that brings us to where we are today...
I am truly happy for the ones that sold and got out in time and at least broke even, and in the case of long time owners, maybe even made a profit. I also acknowledge that Cordova is a place for families to go who are wanting to realize their dream of owning their own home and that is a good thing. However, for long time home owners like myself, and others like me who want to move out of this area it is easy to feel "trapped."
According to many of the families who were able to sell their existing homes, your only option is to invest thousands of dollars to make several upgrades to the property if you hope to get the house sold in the current Cordova market and at least break even. Myself, and others like me are trying to do just that, but it takes time and money. Like several other Cordova home owners out there, it's a difficult road to have to take just to try to "get out of Cordova!".