Welcome to another episode of the Custom Home Builder podcast with Jason Black, the president and owner of Artisan Signature Homes, Louisville’s most accomplished luxury custom home builder. Norton Commons is a massive 600-acre building site on the east side of Louisville in Prospect. Ten years ago, the concept was to create a Town Center with businesses, schools, restaurants, dentists, doctors, health clubs, a post office, a dog park – and build up a surrounding community of homeowners who are passionate about where they live.
One of the early objections as people tour Norton Commons is the people who think “I couldn’t live in a neighborhood where the houses are that close together.” However, Black finds that most people ultimately find they don’t need a large yard for day-to-day living, especially when there is so much green space within the community. Most people are happy with a patio and some privacy in back, but find they spend more time on the front porch. “It really is a lifestyle that folks are buying into when they come to Norton Commons,” says Black.
Missy Hillock is the brains behind a bourbon-themed bed and breakfast that just opened up in Norton Commons. She and her husband were “blown away” by the community when they first drove through, but “had no idea all the things that it was going to afford in terms of lifestyle.” They loved being social and chatting with neighbors from their front porch, they loved the low maintenance, they loved the gardens and the lake outside their doorstep, they loved all their healthcare providers being within walking distance. From a business standpoint, they knew their B&B would be a perfect opportunity due to the high architectural standards and the lack of competitors. People relocating to Louisville often come to spend a few nights, while house hunting, Hillock explains. “It’s also great too for those who do live in Norton Commons who have family or friends coming into town and they may not have space to host the guests,” she adds.
Speaking of architecture, that was part of the allure for Black to get involved building within the development. “There’s probably five architectural styles that are allowed to be built in Norton Commons,” he explains. This includes Classical Vernacular, Italianate, Craftsman, Arts and Craft, and Colonials. There are some options where maybe 5% or less of the homes can be a Spice style, where the rules can bend a little. “A lot of these home patterns were built in Louisville in the 1920s and 1930s, modeled off old styles,” says Black. In other words: the front porches are massive. Trees line the street. Big garages and driveways are set off to the side, rather than directly in front of the homes. He knew right away he wanted to be involved in the neighborhood development and contribute to the top-notch architecture.
Black admits it took him a lengthy interview process to become an approved builder for the Norton Commons community. “If you don’t build right, there’s somebody knocking on your shoulder and saying, ‘Hey, look, that detail’s wrong,’ or, ‘You didn’t trim your windows right. You’ve got to rip out the brick and redo it’,” Black laughs. He adds: “Unfortunately, I’ve learned those mistakes. I’ve taken out brick, I’ve moved windows, I’ve put the wrong trim on, and it’s a learning curve.”
Yet, it’s these strict development standards that ensures Norton Commons withstands the test of time. There are other communities where they changed the rules and allowed builders to go wild. Norton Commons has stayed true to their style, with minor variances allowable by approval only. As a result, Norton Commons is a thriving community. They featured Homearama in 2016 and they’ve started several new sections this year. “Every section that comes on, the lot prices continue to go up,” Black has noticed.
People love the new build homes aspect too because they get the newest technologies, the latest products, and more efficiencies. Black’s firm, Artisan Signature Homes, helps clients from the design to the build phase if they want to go custom. They also have several spec homes available on the market that are move-in ready for people. Black is opening an office on Meeting Street, right next door to Chateau Bourbon and his wife’s boutique, Lulubelle’s.
Gretchen Black says the boutique she co-owns with her cousin is set in the community of their dreams. “We love the idea of building our business in a convenient place where both of us live,” she explains. “We love the other businesses around. We love the support.” Many of her visitors are people from Indiana or around Kentucky who made Norton Commons their Saturday afternoon “destination.” They came to town, had lunch at one of the local restaurants and shopped the boutiques.
Mixed-use residential was a new concept back when Norton Commons was first developed. The idea that you could live above your workplace was novel. “They had to rewrite the code because there was no code for a development like this in Jefferson County,” Black explains. There truly is “something for everyone” in Norton Commons. For more information, you can follow Jason Black at ArtisanSignatureHomes.com or @ArtisanSignatureHomes on Instagram.