Oxford digs into the future of housing

By Charlie Richards, Daily Dispatch : Printed October 30, 2003

OXFORD — If the new housing development called Oxford Park turns out as well as the ground breaking held for it Thursday, Oxford will have a gem of an asset.

Groundbreaking ceremony

The event benefited from perfect weather, drew more than 200 officials and dignitaries, and featured a gourmet luncheon served under a circus-size white tent.

There are those with doubts about the project, intended to eventually provide more than 1,300 houses plus apartments, condominiums and some commercial area. Whether a town like Oxford and a county like Granville and their economy can support such an undertaking is the question asked by people who have lived in the small town all their lives.

But there was no place for such skepticism Thursday, as the land-owning Bode family and one of the premier developers in the state were joined by Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, their business associates and others holding forth with optimism.

From left: Lucy Bode, Roger Perry, Beverly Perdue

There was a flavor of friendship among some of the guests, who know the Bodes through work in the halls of the legislature. They included two state representatives, Jim Crawford and Stan Fox of Oxford, and three state senators, Wib Gulley and Jeane Lucas of Durham and A.B. Swindell of Nash.

Perdue, a veteran of state politics with years in the House and Senate before capturing the second-highest rank in the executive branch, delivered a message for rural North Carolina.

First she referred to the developer, Roger Perry, as "a good man and a dear friend" and described Lucy Hancock Bode, who with her own husband owns the land, as "deeply committed to preservation."

And she took note of the weather and the wooded setting. "It's always beautiful in rural North Carolina," she said, prefacing the message to come. Observing that all are getting older, Perdue said: "I sometimes am resistant to change." But change is going to come, she said, and without it "we would be economically dead."

Participants ready their shovels

"I urge you to embrace this change," she said. "But make sure the change that occurs in rural North Carolina is the right kind." As for Oxford Park, she said, "You're building a better county today."

Although from New Bern, Perdue also makes a home in Chapel Hill, where she lives next to a development done by Perry. She assured the local leaders he will provide an asset for the area. She also assured Perry and Bode they have chosen the right place to invest. Granville, she said, is one of the finest counties in North Carolina."

She singled out it's school system as one of the reasons. Perdue's message about Oxford, Granville and the rural area was the feature of the public ground breaking ceremony, but for Lucy Bode, it seemed the event was more personal than for most in the gathering of business and government leaders.

Saying Oxford Park represents her desire to "come back and give back to my home community," she told a story from four years ago. She stood on the open ground of the farm with her daughter, just the two of them, and asked, "Should we buy this land?" Mary Willis Bode, the daughter, replied: "I'm just a 12-year-old girl. I can't tell you what to do."

But Lucy, the daughter and sister of prominent land developers and political participants, had more support from husband John, a lawyer, lobbyist and financial adviser in Raleigh. So the historic Oak Lawn Plantation land came into Bode hands, except for the separately owned home site. And now it is about to become part of Oxford.

Perry had compliments for local leaders, who he said have been professional and creative in working with him. He thanked them for "the privilege of working with you" and said Mayor Al Woodlief had been "fiercely protective" of the citizens and their interests.

The mayor, in turn, proclaimed the date of Oct. 30 "the beginning of a great new era for the city of Oxford."

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