Residents and boosters of Mount Vintage Plantation gathered by the dozens to mark an upbeat occasion July 24, holding a ribbon-cutting to promote interest in fresh growth, largely shown through a relationship with builder Essex Homes and seller Meybohm Real Estate.
The core message is that "Mount Vintage is back, and it's in great shape, and the golf course is in great shape," said Patrick Bukszar, general manager of Essex's Aiken/Augusta division. "The neighborhood's in great shape, and it's set for growth going forward, and we're happy to be taking part in that."
"We were pleasantly surprised by the turnout," he added. "We had about 110 registrants."
The model home, on Revolutionary Way, is a few yards from the golf course, and is on acreage bought from developer Wayne Raiford. The builder was Karl Haslinger, a former Aiken resident and Savannah River Site employee.
"It's a lot of good buzz happening out here," said Chris Heath, a Mount Vintage resident since 2017. He acknowledged a recent uptick in terms of new neighbors in his vicinity.
Among others watching with interest has been Web Curl, an Army veteran who has lived at Mount Vintage since 2006. He commented, "Most people out there now are starting to feel comfortable again that they did make the right decision in choosing Mount Vintage as their homes years ago. Generally, given what we went through with the recession and the problems with our initial developer that coincided with all of the other financial concerns, it was tough in the late 2000s."
He added, "We just kind of felt like we were out here, off on our own, and that nothing was happening at Mount Vintage good, bad or indifferent. We were just kind of stalled and not moving forward."
"We waited a long time," said another resident, speaking anonymously. He recalled moving to Mount Vintage in 2009, and said 10 houses were built there that year. During the following decade, however, the annual total was more likely to be one or two houses, he said.
The golf course is among Mount Vintage's most prominent features, and the development's homeowners administration bought it in 2016 from from Apex Bank, paying $2.9 million for the course, according to Edgefield County property records, as reported in the Aiken Standard. The HOA still owns the golf course and it is "in full operation again," according to one local resident.
The golf course and town center, according to the Aiken Standard's report, came under bank ownership after it sank into Chapter 11 bankruptcy under previous ownership, and the course "fell into disrepair under bank ownership, with weeds and garish rough supplanting the once-lush layout." Homeowners and other Mount Vintage boosters faced a variety of legal and financial turbulence over the course of several years.
The recovery effort has "been a labor of love from virtually all the residents out here in bringing not only the golf course but also our town center back to the shape it was in back in the glory days," said Bob Meyer, a full-time Mount Vintage resident since 2015 and homeowner there since 2008.
The current situation is "like springtime at Mount Vintage," in Curl's words. "We can see growth again. We can see things moving forward. We can see that for the most part everybody's pulling on the same end of the rope again, and we're trying to make this a better community."
Curl credited the golf course with a massive turnaround due to a major investment of time, labor and money. The course is now back to its "premier" status, he said.
Rick Atkins, a Meybohm representative who bought a lot at Mount Vintage in 2005 and has lived there since 2010, said having Essex Homes building in Mount Vintage represents "a pretty big event."
Essex is a "new builder in the Aiken area," he added. "They've got the Columbia market, and they were reaching out to building a few communities, and they worked with Meybohm to choose Mount Vintage, which is important to Mount Vintage right now, because we're going through a process to try to get back to a tipping point."
Mount Vintage covers about 2,000 acres in the Sweetwater area (southern Edgefield County), dates back to the late 1990s and was originally promoted as an equestrian community. Construction on the golf course began in 1999 and was completed in 2000.