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Fredericksburg population boom continues


When Bill Hayes moved into Idlewild in 2007, he noticed a handful of moms gathering with their children in the Fredericksburg community’s clubhouse.

That handful has grown to several dozen over the last few years as the subdivision has exploded with additional residents.

“We’ve seen a steady progression of home building and improvement in the neighborhood itself,” said Hayes, now a homeowners association board member.

In fact, about 770 of the 785 homes planned for Idlewild are already built.

“We’ve seen steady growth out here. It’s almost as if the recession has passed over Idlewild,” Hayes said.

That growth isn’t limited to Idlewild. The city of Fredericksburg’s population boom over the last two years has outpaced growth in the state as well as every other locality in the region.

Between April 2010 and July 2012, the city saw a 7.2 percent increase in the number of residents, propelling its population to more than 26,000, according to figures released by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

That made Fredericksburg the second-fastest-growing community in Virginia, next to Covington. That city in Allegheny County, which has about 6,400 residents, grew 7.7 percent during the period.

Meanwhile, the state’s population grew by 2.3 percent during the same period of time.

The local growth seems to be fueled by new development in city neighborhoods such as Idlewild and The Preserve at Smith Run, as well as in apartment complexes such as Seasons and Cobblestone.

Seasons at Celebrate Virginia, the 232-unit complex near Wegmans, was the fastest lease deal Johnson Development Associates (which has since sold the property) has ever experienced, according to Ben Graves, the president of multi-family for the company.

He said the highest percentage of residents are people relocating to the area.

The Haven complex, across the street from Seasons and owned by Johnson Development, started leasing units last month. Graves said about 10 percent of its 250 units have already been leased.

Cobblestone, a 314-unit apartment complex off Lafayette Boulevard, was more than 95 percent leased in less than a year, said Michael Eastwood, vice president of development for Home Properties, Cobblestone’s developer.

Eastwood said it filled up much faster than expected.

About half the residents in the complex moved there after their jobs transferred them from other areas, said Avonelle Letang, an assistant manager for Cobblestone.

Another 10 percent or so have permanent homes south of Richmond but work in Washington, D.C. So they live in Cobblestone during the week, she said, but return to their other homes on the weekends.

It’s not just apartment rentals that are increasing the city’s population.

Between April 2010 and July 2012, when more than 1,700 residents moved into Fredericksburg, the city issued more than 200 permits to build new single-family homes, most of them in Idlewild and The Preserve at Smith Run.

More than 500 apartments—most in Cobblestone and Seasons—were also approved to be built during that time.

The number of occupancy permits issued—which allow people to move into the residences—was nearly as high for that same period.

All the growth in the city has led to more students in city schools.

Over the past three years, enrollment has increased by about 300 students, according to Bob Burch, the school district’s director of operations. There are now more than 3,000 students in the school system.

In fact, at Hugh Mercer Elementary School, an expansion is planned to accommodate the growth.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413