Real Estate Innovator of the Year 2023 – Wheeler Home - 405 Magazine

Real Estate Innovator of the Year 2023 – Wheeler Home

Wheeler Home focuses on higher-density, mixed-use housing, mostly missing from OKC’s suburban development.

Wheeler Home focuses on higher-density, mixed-use housing, mostly missing from OKC’s suburban development. And it offers one of the few all-geothermal communities in Oklahoma.

Interview with Josh Kitchen, Wheeler Home vice president.

Why did Wheeler Home take such a different approach to homebuilding in OKC?

As an introduction, Wheeler Home is the primary residential home builder in the Wheeler District development. We also build small commercial products and manage development projects for the district.

We found that a missing element in OKC’s increasingly suburban landscape is housing which is higher density, mixed-use and focused on people, not cars. In partnering with the Wheeler District, we were able to build the type of community that we would want to live in — homes designed for neighbors to get to know each other and commercial spaces that allow small businesses to flourish, with an infrastructure that offers public spaces, generous sidewalks, integrated bike paths and narrower, safer streets.

Think about classic neighborhoods in OKC like Mesta Park — or places we love to travel like Boston, Chicago, Portland or Seaside, Florida. Neighborhoods that are bustling and thriving today were intentionally designed way back when to be vibrant and extremely livable.

We believe the design of a home, not just the design of the neighborhood, can create quality of life. Wheeler District architecture is on a human scale — or optimized for human use, rather than for cars. Every home we build has large front porches set just off the sidewalk for curb appeal and access to neighbors and discrete garages accessed from the rear via a private alley that allow the front of each home to be the focus of the exterior elevation, not a bulky garage.

Energy efficiency is another important element in the design of our homes. Wheeler District is one of a few all-geothermal communities in Oklahoma, which helps our residents by cutting down heating and cooling costs and providing a quiet neighborhood without noisy air conditioning units running non-stop. We build the “envelope” of our homes as tight as possible to allow for more conditioned air to stay inside and less energy to be used to heat and cool it. We are now incorporating solar into many projects as well.

Our building aesthetic also stands out in the typical Oklahoma new construction landscape: three story Scandinavian — inspired elevations, metal roofs, wood clad windows that crank open, and Hardie siding painted in rich, vivid colors. The style is distinct from typical suburban architecture but more historic and nostalgic. 

How has Wheeler Home grown during the past few years?

Since our founding as McAlister Construction in 2001, our construction company has grown from a few employees to 22 today. We have also grown our vision and focus with the help of our core values  —  teamwork, respect, efficiency and excellence. 

The first Wheeler residents moved in 2019 and by the end of 2023, we will have 200 individual residences across a range of housing product types: cottages, detached townhomes, flats, shop homes and classic Wheeler homes. Wheeler District’s master plan anticipates at least 500 more single family residences over the span of the project.

How has the entire district grown over the past few years?

Wheeler District has gone from zero to 60 in the last few years. What started as an abandoned airpark is now home to Big Friendly brewery, Taco Nation, Clarity Coffee, a bike shop, boutiques, professional offices, a school, parks, playgrounds, a pool and, let’s not forget  —  a Ferris wheel! Several other new businesses and multifamily projects are slated for the near future.

The district also hosts events for the OKC community like a weekly farmer’s market, summer concert series and criterium bike race. The district is only in phase two of 10 in the original master plan, so there’s a lot more to come!

Why are people drawn to a district like this?

A seven-year old fan of Wheeler District recently explained it well, calling it “a small city in a big town.”

Unlike most new neighborhoods, Wheeler District is built on ideals that have proven to last for generations. In how many neighborhoods in OKC can you walk out your front door and grab a cup of great coffee? Or let your kids roam the neighborhood from one playground to the next. Or know all your neighbors? Residents here say life is a little more sweet since not spending as much time inside their car and instead connecting outside with friends and family.

One resident said, “We get to own a brand-new house in a diverse area of the urban core that’s walkable and has a sense of community. This doesn’t exist anywhere else in OKC.”

How is Wheeler Home pushing innovation forward in urban planning?

People often don’t know that the Wheeler District’s design is based on New Urbanism principles, which are all about making intentional, well-thought out and healthy communities that encourage people and businesses to flourish. The focus is on mixed-use spaces, high density housing, and walkable neighborhoods, among other concepts.

One of the most common questions about Wheeler District’s design is, “Why are the homes so close together?” The answer can be summed up in two words: walkable urbanism. The more compact the neighborhood, the more accessible the neighborhood amenities and sense of community. Walkable neighborhoods create a connected community.

Wheeler District is just a special place. It is impressive and surprising to both locals who visit for the first time and out of town new urbanist enthusiasts who travel far and wide to see it. New Urbanism is a growing movement, but has been less common in a place like Oklahoma. However, recently, more new urbanist planned communities are popping up throughout the metro area, which is both exciting and validating.

In terms of real estate industry innovation, Wheeler District is leading the way in offering a range of housing options and price points, which we think is essential in today’s economy. We want to create a place for everyone in Wheeler. We are excited to further that mission when we release more than 50 cottage homes (900-1400 square feet) later this year. In a market where raw materials are at an all-time high, we still care about accessibility for homebuyers.


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