Efforts to revitalize an older residential portion of Martinez are becoming increasingly visible as new homes sprout up in the area.
In 2007, Joe Todd, of JHT Construction, started redeveloping a residential area on Avery Avenue off South Belair Road.
"It goes back to the old adage: location, location, location," said Todd, originally from Perry, Ga. "This area has been a diamond in the rough for a long time."
Todd moved to Columbia County about five years ago and started working in residential construction with his father-in-law, Aubrey Wallace, of ABW Builders.
Though many developers build residential communities farther from the urbanized areas of the county, Todd saw a demand for single-family homes in areas closer to town, he said.
"Instead of saying, 'Why?' I said, 'Why not?'" said Todd, who was aided in the project by Collier Construction and Kurt Vintson Construction.
The area, Todd said, was home to many older residences in desperate need of demolition.
The first project they decided to tackle has now become Brookwood Village, which currently consists of 24 single-family homes and six townhomes on 5.5 acres.
Custom homes are offered in the subdivision, with residences priced between $140,000 and $160,000.
Todd named the subdivision's street, Casey Court, after his 4-year-old Chocolate Labrador named Casey, who frequents construction sites with Todd.
"She's always been my business partner," he said.
The recent work done by developers also has caught the attention of county officials.
"It was in terrible disrepair," Jean Garniewicz, chairperson of the county's planning commission, said of the area. "There were a lot of homes in there that needed a lot of work.
"Somebody needed to go in and give it a shot in the arm, and this young man has decided to take this on. I can't compliment him enough."
Work on two neighboring subdivisions, Brookwood Estates and Collins Park, are under way and should be finished in the spring.
Brookwood Estates, a gated community, will include 71 single-family homes on 14 acres at the end of Avery Avenue, and Collins Park will incorporate 24 patio homes on 4.3 acres between Collins Drive and Jessie Road.
The whole process, however, wasn't without its obstacles.
Todd said acquiring some parcels was difficult, but said he received guidance from attorney David Huguenin in the acquisitions.
"It took a lot of guts for me, for all of us, to really stick with it," Todd said.
In addition to receiving the county's approval, Todd said he's formed relationships with nearby residents and gained their respect.
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," he said.
"As you get it cleaned up, people around the neighborhood start to care more."
Garniewicz noted the dramatic change that's occurred since work started.
"He's done a great job," she said. "I hope he takes on some other projects."
Todd said he would like to find future undertakings similar to the ones he's working on now.
"You want to leave things in better shape than you find them," Todd said. "For future generations, it'll be a much better area."
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