Flowers blooming from lamp posts in the spring, decorative stone walls and inviting walkways for pedestrians. This is developer Dick Campbell's dream neighborhood.
Since it sprouted over a decade ago, businesses and families have been drawn to Village Gardens because of its architectural flair, Campbell says. He says that within the next couple of years, visitors to the neighborhood will feel as if they were in a small English country village, with a modern twist.
More buildings featuring English-style country architecture are targeted for the neighborhood's marketplace, facing the existing buildings to create the desired narrow pathways, Campbell said.
“As it continues to develop, it will be much like the Cotswolds in England."
The growing marketplace that formed within the southeast Lincoln neighborhood currently includes retail and office space and entertainment options.
Campbell's family developed the neighborhood surrounding Campbell's Nurseries at 56th Street and Pine Lake Road.
“It’s been a project, a labor of love,” Campbell said. “As a family, we sat down and determined this style was the direction we wanted to take our neighborhood in.”
Three family members already had homes in the area when the family began development of Village Gardens. Once the community around them began to expand, Campbell said they began to visualize and plan what they wanted to see in the future.
“We realized we couldn’t just grow trees on the ground anymore,” he said. “We started looking at traditional neighborhood developments, and different projects around the country.”
The family looked at projects in New Jersey, Illinois, Texas and Missouri, and sought an area with retail, living, office and civic components.
Village Gardens today meets all the requirements, Campbell said, with Trinity United Methodist Church serving as the market’s civic component because of its involvement in the community.
The marketplace continues to add retail and office options, including the opening of Hiro 88 and Local Beer, Patio and Kitchen this winter.
More housing is on the way, in the form of apartments, Campbell said. So are additional small shops.
In some cases, plans will combine commercial and residential space.
The design will allow residential-zoned units to have a business on the main floor and an apartment or two on the upper level. According to Campbell, these buildings often attract smaller businesses.
“It’s what we call live-at-work,” he said. “The spaces are good for small businesses like accounting firms.”
Realtor Gordon Opp said these types of properties are not permitted anywhere else in Lincoln on residential lots.
“That's one thing that makes Village Gardens so special,” Opp said.
Opp said construction will begin soon in the space between the building that houses Scooter's Coffee and the Marriott Residence Inn, with a bakery among the planned tenants.
Campbell said he hopes Village Gardens continues to grow as a destination where people crossover shop, meaning they move from one type of business to another.
“Today, people will come to our garden center, and then sneak over to Art & Soul,” Campbell said. “We look for this kind of interaction and crossover among businesses.”
Art & Soul, a unique kitchen and wine bar that offers cooking and art classes, opened in Village Gardens in 2011. Mary Slattery, who operates the business along with her family, said they were drawn to the area because of its architectural style.
“It was charming and fit our creative side,” Slattery said. “We liked the idea behind the neighborhood supporting local businesses.”
She said the business has seen tremendous growth as other businesses have grown around Art & Soul.
“When new businesses join the neighborhood, they draw more people in,” she said. “We like having other businesses around, because it gives us an opportunity to work with others.”
New businesses have added nightlife options to the area.
Next, Campbell would like to see a small specialty grocer join the marketplace, keeping with the model to bring unique products, services and housing to the area.
"What Village Gardens has transformed into has fulfilled our goal of creating a marketplace and neighborhood that will continue to be unique in 50 or more years.”