Village Realty:Building for Tommorrow

Published 8:54 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Village Realty Office in downtown Columbia

Village Realty Office in downtown Columbia

This continues a series of stories begun in 2012 focusing on businesses in the Tyrrell County Chamber of Commerce.

Columbia,NC has always been a funnel for beach traffic.

Billy Carmichael III, a writer for The State Magazine, saw this trend back in 1950.

One of Carmichael’s stories dated August 12, 1950 notes:

“Columbia, the county seat of Tyrrell, is a town that seems to have three major problems, but unfortunately is losing the fight about two of them, with the third at a standstill.”

Carmichal goes on to outline that the three problems are potatoes, bridges, and a railroad- “with no one in too much of a hurry to do much to help the situation except possibly the Columbians themselves.”

The bridge problem was unique to Columbia then because it represented a geographical advantage.

Carmichael noted that each year thousands and thousands of vacationers and travelers go to Nags Head and Manteo. Most people taking this trip either go the northern way through Elizabeth City or sometimes the southern route through Washington and Belhaven. But the shortest way is through Columbia and eastward on the direct-line route.

Today things have changed. The idea of developing some of Columbia’s geographical advantages has progressed.

US Route 64 has played a major role in the development of Columbia.

US 64 was established in 1932; from Tennessee, following NC 28 to Old Fort, overlapping with US 70/NC 10 to Statesville, then finally NC 90 to end at Fort Landing, in Tyrrell County. In late 1934, NC 28NC 10, and NC 90 were dropped along the route. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, US 64 was made a freeway from east of Knightdale to Williamston Most of the original highway became U.S. 64 Alternate. In the early 2000s, it was also placed on a freeway from Plymouth to Columbia.

These ideas of expansion and economic development guide Village Realty, an influential company working in the Columbia area today.
Village Realty has many employees from Tyrrell and Washington counties as well as other counties in eastern North Carolina.
The company beginnings in Columbia came when Bob Oakes realized the need for a real estate office, after locating the WhiteCap Linen business in the area.

He then met with Durwood Cooper Jr, who had a real estate license from the time he lived on the Outer Banks. Durwood had just stopped farming and owned another Main Street business. After much discussion, it was decided to open a Village Realty office in Columbia with Durwood as the broker in charge.

Today, Cooper is the manager and broker in charge of the Village Realty Columbia office.

Cooper has had a strong connection to the area over the years. He has been a county commissioner, planning board member, and Chamber of Commerce president.  He works with Laura Spencer as part of the Columbia Office Village Realty Team. Laura had worked in Village Realty’s Guest Operations in Nags Head prior to becoming a licensed broker and moving into sales at the Columbia office.

“So much of our communities in this eastern North Carolina area are river and waterfront area. Columbia is very connected to the history of this area,” he said.

He mentioned a Village Realty business project that he and Bob Oakes had worked on with these ideas of history and community in mind.
Oakes and partners formed Freshwater Traders for the purpose of working with the Town of Columbia to annex adjoining farmland into the city limits of Columbia to develop additional residential and commercial space. In an effort to provide a positive expansion of Columbia, the Freshwater Traders Group did much research and held a design Charrette for public input of what the group hopes to be Columbia ParkCooper noted that project has cleared some important hurdles.

Cooper noted that project has cleared some important hurdles. “We actually have preliminary plat approval for the first thirty lots there through the town,” he said.“We actually have preliminary plat approval for the first thirty lots there through the town,” he said.

Cooper mentioned that the goal of the project was to sell lot and house packages.

“We worked with the Town closely trying to do this. We wanted to have this as an expansion of town rather than a private subdivision,” he said.

Columbia Park which is currently on hold would be near where Whitecap Line and the Hess Gas Station in Columbia are currently located.

An outline of the project has areas where the project could connect to any other properties that would be developed nearby.

The project has space for 250 single-family, 150 multi-family, and 35,000 square feet of commercial space.

The idea for the project started in 2004, but the Town of Columbia did not have all their current sub-division ordinances in place.

“This is actually planned as a mixed-use type development, rather than being your typical sub-division. In other words we are going to have smaller lot sizes, but we have open spaces to off-set,” Cooper explained.

The current town regulations for a lot size are 7500 square feet. The average size for a lot in town is estimated somewhere between 4 to 5 thousand square feet.

“This is designed using a lower square footage, but providing common space. In other words, houses will be having a rear alley access instead of lots just backing up to each other. So you have services alleys where things like trash cans would be located,” said Cooper.

Cooper tied this design concept to promoting a prettier community.

Village Realty on the Outer Banks is known for its management of weekly rentals and sales, however Durwood and Laura set forth to add year-round rentals to the Village Realty Columbia Office Services.

“Our rentals here are completely different from our rentals on the Outer Banks. Our rentals on the Outer Banks focus on your weekly vacation renters. Our rentals here in Columbia focus on your year-round renter,” said Cooper.

Cooper mentioned school teachers, local couples, and researchers as some examples of people who might use this year-round rental option.

“The weekly rentals at the beach entail weekly housekeeping, linen service, and the whole works. Year-round rentals are inspected when they move in and they provide their own furniture. When they move out, they leave it in the condition in which they moved in,” said Cooper.

Village Realty, through its rentals, tries to work with the Economic Improvement Council, with properties which are available for what is considered EIC support. This is to help tenants that would qualify for program assistance which would help them with their rent cost.

“We are trying to expand our rental department. At some point that may get to a point where we have to add on extra staff,” said Cooper.

If Village Realty does not a property available to an individual’s specific needs, they will share information about other options in the area.

Bob Oakes, President, Dorie Fuller, Vice-President, and many other staff members assist the Village Realty Columbia Office Staff with marketing, accounting, web services, and much more from the Village Realty Nags Head Office. With this support, the Village Realty Office Columbia Office is trying to assist Sellers, Buyers, and Landlords with their property needs in the Columbia and surrounding areas.