If everything had gone as planned, Oshara Village would have been built out by 2010.
Realtor and developer Alan Hoffman started sales in the 480-acre subdivision off Richards Avenue in the summer of 2007. His expectation that all 735 lots would be sold in two years was obliterated by the recession. His role as the founder of Oshara ended with a bankruptcy.
Twelve years after the subdivision’s grand opening, there are about 110 homes completed there and a dozen more under construction. One of the busy builders is Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity.
Last week, Johnny Gee, a staffer with YouthWorks, was swinging a pick at a Habitat homesite in Oshara. He supervised seven young people, ages 16 to 24, in his organization’s YouthBuild program.
A U.S. Department of Labor effort, YouthBuild serves at-risk youth — current or former high school dropouts — with education and job skills.
“This is a nine-month job training and GED program,” Gee said. “I’ve just been doing this for six months. It’s what I wanted. I’m from here originally and I moved back from Portland [Ore.]. [I’m] trying to make a difference.”
The lot is one of 18 that Habitat acquired at auction in 2015.
“We’re building the last two of those now, then we have another six lots we’ll be doing,” said Joyce Roberts, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist who has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for 14 years.
She said other volunteers, from the AmeriCorps organization, help with construction labor and also manage the crews.
“We have three women this year,” Roberts said with obvious enthusiasm.
Heather Cunningham is one of those crew leaders with AmeriCorps. She was working last week on a Habitat house that was quite far along compared to the adjacent lot where Gee labored on a foundation.
“All of our houses are wood frame, but we do build adobe for all of the garden walls,” Cunningham said. “We have so many people from all over the country who have heard about adobe building, and they’re really excited to come out here and build with it.” Those volunteers include people from the Bike & Build program who routinely help out at Santa Fe Habitat job sites on their annual cross-country bicycle treks.
“We use the adobe wall as kind of lesson in the architectural history of Santa Fe,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said all the young people who were busy on the two house projects were with YouthWorks. “I’m the only AmeriCorps volunteer between these two sites right now. The other crew leaders are busy at Las Soleras.”
Those AmeriCorps volunteers, Liz Jackson and Anna Oprisch, were helping to build two of the six houses that Pulte Homes donated to Habitat at Estancias de Las Soleras. That large housing development is underway north of Interstate 25 and west of Richards Avenue.
Other builders active right now in Oshara include Homewise and Homes by Joe Boyden. Homewise, which has a goal to build 60 houses in Santa Fe this year, so far has secured a dozen building permits for homes in the development.
The Boyden firm has been building on lots acquired from Century Bank.
Boyden has four more under construction on Willow Back Road. They range from 1,645 to 1,745 square feet and are on the market for between $389,000 and $399,000. Brett Hultberg, a Realtor with Santa Fe Properties, said two of those are already under contract.
Not far away is a homesite with a sign saying, “Prime single-family lot for sale.” That’s the last of Hoffman’s lots, now owned by his son.
The elder Hoffman is now retired, but he still has a sense of ownership regarding Oshara. Long an advocate of sustainable living, he designed it in line with the precepts of new urbanism — human-scale and walkable.
“We got our restaurant, did you see?” Hoffman said, referring to the opening of The Pantry Dos at Oshara. “I’m as happy as a clam. Property values are really going to go up for people. With a new urbanist community, you have to have your commercial to get your full property values.”