East Area Festival of Homes: Castle Gate withstands heat of wildfires, economy

Visitors have a chance to see the work in Castle Gate and nearby neighborhoods Saturday and Sunday and again May 5-6 during the East Area Festival of Homes. The homes will be open free to the public from 1 to 7 p.m.
BY DYRINDA TYSON dyrinda@gmail.com Published: April 28, 2012
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— Things got a little too hot one afternoon last year in the Castle Gate neighborhood as wildfires thrashed through the thick woods surrounding it. Though the flames didn't actually destroy any homes, the aftermath was grim, said Josh Simmons, vice president of Gemini Homes.

“Everything was black and dead,” he said.

“It looked like the Black Forest in ‘The Wizard of Oz,'” added Jim McWhirter, Gemini's founder and owner.

But the 20-acre neighborhood near Hiwassee Road and Reno Avenue, part of the East Area Festival of Homes, didn't get through unscathed, Simmons said. There was smoke damage, melted siding, scorched landscaping, and heat from the blaze popped the brick off one house.

“We had to redo all the gates because it burned all the wiring,” he said.

Simmons spent about a year cleaning up and repairing the damage, McWhirter said. The charred remains of the trees that once shielded the neighborhood are gone now. And the process wasn't exactly painless.

“You bite the bullet to do the dozer work because there's not insurance or anything,” McWhirter said. “It comes out of your pocket. But we've put three more houses in here since that, and there's a fourth one about to start, and we've sold another lot that we will be building in the future.”

Visitors have a chance to see the work there and in nearby neighborhoods Saturday and Sunday and again May 5-6 during the East Area Festival of Homes. The homes will be open free to the public from 1 to 7 p.m.

Castle Gate's model home at 13439 Glen Eagle Point is among those open. The 2,300-square-foot place features three bedrooms and 21/2 baths with extra-wide doorways and hallways, plus an open floor plan to ensure accessibility no matter who ends up calling the house home.

An extra 400 square feet in the form of an unfinished bonus room is tucked up a flight of stairs beyond the utility room. To finish it or not finish it — that's up to the buyer, Simmons said.

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Personally, this is the third slump I've been through in 30 years. It happens every 10, 12 years, and it's a cleansing process.”

Jim McWhirter

Gemini founder and owner

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