Rebirth for All-Green Southern Oaks

Mar 26, 2015

Call it the second groundbreaking for Tallahassee’s first totally green neighborhood, the Southern Oaks subdivision off Mahan Drive.

Southern Oaks ground breakers (l to r): Suzanne Cook with Florida Green Building Coalition; Vicki O'Neil, City of Tallahassee Gas Utility; Developer Mike Rogers; Builder Mark Kessler; County Commissioners John Dailey and Bryan Desloge; Wes Singletary with Habitat for Humanity; and Betsy Gray with Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce

The first groundbreaking – actually an announcement of intent – took place way back in 2007.  Tallahassee developer Mike Rogers had a vision of a community built to the highest standards of sustainability.  But in a year, the real estate downturn and a deep recession put those plans on hold.  Today, the Tallahassee building market is rebounding and Rogers said it’s time to get the project back on track.

“I’m excited to see the construction industry coming around and I don’t think anybody could have predicted the duration and depth of the downturn.  It was what it was and we’re fortunate we were able to hang on and getting things off the ground.  Haven’t changed our focus and looking forward to moving forward,” Rogers said.

Rogers’ partner in the Southern Oaks project is Mark Kessler, head and founder of Kessler Construction.

“This is the beginning of a wonderful thing,” Kessler told the crowd at the groundbreaking.  “Kessler Construction is very excited to bring a smart, green home to Tallahassee.  As a model, we’re going to keep this open for two years.” 

The initial house will serve as a template for the other Southern Oaks homes that will follow.  All will meet the Florida Green Building Coalition’s standards, as outlined by Coalition Executive Director Suzanne Cook.

“Energy efficiency, which would include Energy Star windows and appliances and lighting.  Whole house systems designed to ensure each component works in tandem with the other to optimize energy efficiency and ensure owner comfort.  Passive design for solar daylighting and reduction of solar heat gain in our climate.  Water conservation through low-flow plumbing fixtures and water efficient appliances.  Florida-friendly landscapes and innovative irrigation technologies,” Cook said.

As a first-of-its-kind, Leon County Commissioner John Dailey – who was at Wednesday’s groundbreaking with his commission colleague Bryan Desloge - hoped Southern Oaks will be a template for the area’s future housing construction.

“When we talk about the growth of Tallahassee and Leon County, sustainable development is key.  And you are setting the example and setting the pace.  We’re just proud to be here and support you today,” Dailey said as Desloge nodded assent.

Developer Mike Rogers said Southern Oak’s model home will take around six to eight months to build.  Its future subdivision neighbors will run in the four-hundred to seven-hundred thousand dollar range.  Not much more, Rogers insisted, than comparably sized and furnished non-green homes.