After seven years in the making, a new neighborhood is now emerging on the greens of a former golf course located off Freeport Road in Marshall Township, right on the border with Cranberry and Seven Fields.
Situated on the former fairways, the Venango Trails community when completed will feature 473 homes and townhouses on about 150 acres. The community's name is derived from the Venango Path, a historic Native American trail that runs through the area.
“Our vision from inception, quite simply, was to create the best new neighborhood in the north suburbs,” said Brett Malky, president of EQA Landmark Communities, the development manager. “We are elated with our progress.”
Developers earlier this year began work on the first phase of the project, including adding roads and sewer lines. Several craftsman and “neo-colonial” style homes are under construction, Malky said.
Among them are the “artisan,” the “cottage” and the “carriage,” all of which are expected to make their public debut by the end of October, Malky said.
The homes vary in size and price point—the cost for townhomes start in the $200,000s, while an “estate” can run up to more than $1 million. Malky said styles for all homes are based on structural design found in the area.
“The beauty of Venango Trails is it’s an approach to a community in which we used to live,” he said. “There truly is a home for everyone.”
Architectural firm Shapiro and Associates spent weeks in the Pittsburgh area studying homes in Wexford and other communities north of Pittsburgh to come up with designs that fit with the existing character of the area, he said.
“Among things we’ll be proudest of when this place is built is that it’s going to feel like it’s been there forever,” he said.
That also means adding tree-lined streets and sidewalks to the neighborhood. All houses will feature front porches, and there will be decorative streetlights, Malky said. Two existing ponds have been retained on the property, and there will be walking trails in the area.
“We think people are really going love this place,” he said.
A Long History
The project has a long history in Marshall Township.
The township first rejected the developer's plans in 2005, citing too many zoning changes need for setbacks, rights of way, buffers and green space, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
After developers broke ground on the site in August 2008, funding problems further delayed the project, the article said.
Some residents also protested it, fearing the rural nature of the area—including the Venango Trail—would be ruined and that new community would bring increased traffic to Freeport Road, according to the Post-Gazette article. Marshall Township officials in March gave unanimous approval to amended plans for the development, according to the Post-Gazette.
Malky declined to comment on the project's background, but he said great efforts have been made to preserve the area and its history.
Developers are taking care to build only in areas that once made up the golf course’s fairways, he said. About 88 acres of woodlands, including the original Venango Trail, have been deeded to the Allegheny Land Trust. That land will forever remain open space, Malky said.
“Basically, we’re developing the former golf holes,” he said.
Now that construction is underway, Malky said homes are selling at a brisk pace, with six sold in the last 30 days.
Aiding the sales is Venango Trails’ proximity to the business and shopping districts of nearby Cranberry Township and Wexford, Malky said.
“It’s a community that’s really resonated with the original people who’ve decided to make it their homes. People want to live in a beautiful place.”