Jay Bradley has always liked the color orange.
He wears orange shirts, drinks out of an orange cup and owns an orange pickup.
After what happened Saturday, he’s thinking there might be something magical about it.
By sheer coincidence, Bradley, a 26-year-old economics graduate from South Hill, was assigned orange as his team color in a heavily promoted contest to win a free house in Tehaleh, the immense Pierce County housing development formerly known as Cascadia.
Bradley saw it as a sign and – sure enough – at the end of the final series of challenges in the “You’re Home Free” contest, Bradley came in first, winning a cool $280,000 for a house in the development.
“I just had a feeling,” Bradley said. He was breathlessly accepting a giant mock-up of a house key from Scott Jones, vice president and general manager of Newland Communities, the California-based company that took over the troubled development last year.
Saturday was opening day at Tehaleh, a chance for the public to check out progress at the 4,200-acre development and a selection of 10 model homes built by five companies. Several hundred people attended the promotional event, which, aside from the house contest, featured free food and music.
“We’re very excited about this,” Jones said. “We’re trying to show people what we’ve done here, get them to come and see the community – and hopefully buy a house.”
Tehaleh (pronounced TAY-HA-LAY) is planned to eventually have about 5,900 homes on a high plateau between Bonney Lake and Orting formerly owned by Weyerhaeuser. Also planned are a 419-acre employment center, a fire station and as many as seven schools.
The development is better known as Cascadia, the vision of developer Patrick Kuo, who bought the land from Weyerhaeuser in 1991. Kuo lost most of it to foreclosure in 2009.
Jones said two homes in the development sold last week, a fact Realtors see as sign of renewed life in Pierce County’s moribund housing market.
Last month, about 1,400 people entered Newland’s contest to win a free home. Contestants were gradually narrowed down to six through a series of online contests.
Saturday’s final, watched by about 250 people and accompanied by cheerleaders and a band, consisted of four challenges: building a cairn by balancing five rocks, a detailed paint-by-number exercise, planting a tree and, finally, digging through a half-bushel of coffee beans to find the right key to open a house door.
In Bradley’s case, the door was orange, and he charged through more than a minute ahead of his nearest competitor.
After the event, Bradley said he wants the house for his mother, a single mom who worked to put his sister and him through college.
“I want to make it easier for her to retire,” he said.
Bradley said he’s considering two home models, both made by Lennar, one of which the $280,000 will cover, the other which will take a few thousand more.
As any good economics major would, he’s also thinking about the tax consequences of his $280,000 windfall.
“I have a friend who’s a tax expert,” he said. “We’re going have a long conversation.”