You know the old joke about suburban developments: That they’re typically named after the natural features that they replace. But in proudly announcing the name it has chosen for the new 692-acre residential development the company is planning near the yet-to-be-built northern segment of the Grand Parkway between I-45 and U.S. 59, Toll Brothers may have made that cliché seem quaint. According to the publicly traded homebuilder, which is working with Cernus Development on the project, the top selling point for this new community is its proximity to the new corporate campus ExxonMobil is building just 6 miles to the west. Northwoods will have room for 1,000 homes built by Toll Brothers and other builders, along with “resort-style amenities that take advantage of the mature trees and topography,” including trails, parks, lakes, and a recreation center.
It’ll also have the same name as a 62-home subdivision in the Little Rock suburb of Mayflower, Arkansas, where an ExxonMobil pipeline accident last March resulted in the release of 210,000 gallons of diluted bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, onto the streets and back yards of the middle-class neighborhood.
Immediately after the spill from the Pegasus pipeline, a quarter of the homes in Northwoods were evacuated. The gloppy nature of the oil product, which until the pipeline break residents had no idea was flowing near their homes, made cleanup very difficult. As of 2 months ago, almost half of the homes in Northwoods had either been listed for sale or been bought up by ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil demolished 3 of the 20 homes it bought after a soil assessment found oil had leaked into the foundations. After months of complaints by residents who said they were still feeling effects of the toxic fumes, Arkansas governor Mike Beebe ordered free medical exams for Northwoods residents.
The Northwoods oil spill and its aftermath were chronicled extensively by local media as well as InsideClimate News, an investigative publication that won a Pulitzer Prize last year for its reporting on another pipeline break — this one in Michigan. Here are a couple of videos from its reports on the Northwoods disaster, produced in concert with public television conservation news magazine This American Land:
For now, at least, you’ll be able to monitor reports on both the Toll Brothers’ new development and the Arkansas oil spill with a single Google search. Try searching “Northwoods ExxonMobil.”
- Developer goes with the familiar in naming new planned community [Prime Property]
- Toll Brothers Breaks Ground on Northwoods, a 700-acre Project Near New Exxon Mobil Campus [Realty News Report]
- Introducing a fresh concept of luxury living with nature [Toll Brothers]
- Inside the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas [InsideClimate News]
- A Neighborhood Shattered: Families Emptying Out of Oil-Hit Arkansas Town [InsideClimate News]
Photo of oilspill cleanup in Northwoods: U.S. EPA