Housing complex going up

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Work continues at a feverish pitch in the first four homes of what will be a new rental house complex in north Iola. Officials from Carlson Gardner, the developer building the homes, hope to have the first residences ready for occupancy by the end of November.

Following an 18-month wait to sift through the bureaucratic puzzle pieces and get the necessary infrastructure in place, work has begun at a fevered pitch on a new rental housing complex in north Iola.
“I’d say that a lot of things are going to start happening within the next 30 to 60 days,” said Tammy Creason, project coordinator for development and acquisitions at Carlson Gardner, Inc.
Carlson Gardner, a Springfield, Mo., housing developer, is building River Valley Homes, a 30-house rental complex geared for working-class occupants.
Creason was in Iola Tuesday to monitor construction, which began in July on the first four homes.
Those structures now have walls, and for the most part, roofs. As the walls went up on the first four homes, crews set their sights on the next four. Their foundations were poured earlier this month.
Staggered, assembly line construction will continue until all 30 homes are built on what was the western half of Cedarbrook Golf Course, just west of North Cottonwood Street.
Crews are using two basic floor plans with varying roof styles to avoid having 30 identical homes, Creason said. Each home will have three bedrooms, two baths and an attached two-car garage.
There has been one change from Carlson Gardner’s original plans.
“We’d originally thought we were going to do three-quarters brick on the front and vinyl siding for the rest of the exterior,” Creason said. “Now, we’re going to go with all brick on all 30 houses.”
The houses will be scattered throughout the 50-acre tract of land. Construction of each home is pegged at 120 days, meaning the first may be ready for occupancy by Thanksgiving, Creason said. Ideally, all 30 will be finished sometime next spring.
“That’s just a guess,” she said. “This is construction, after all. Getting the roofs on the first homes is big because construction can proceed there in any kind of weather.”
With the walls and roofs in place on the first four houses, crews now have begun installing plumbing and electric wiring. Drywall is next.
The complex will be managed by Mid American Properties, a subsidiary of Carlson Gardner.
“I’d imagine interest from renters will really start to grow as this place looks more like a neighborhood and less like a construction zone,” Creason said.
For rental information, contact Mid American Properties at (877) 531-1668 or e-mail midamerica@midamproperties.com.

HAVING THE River Valley Homes complex up and running should be a boon to local industries as the state economy recovers, Creason said.
“As those industries seek employees, one of the biggest factors they face is having suitable housing,” Creason said.
Prospective renters need to fit three of four factors: income (most renters will earn between $10 and $16 an hour), credit ratings, rental history and time at their respective jobs.
Carlson Gardner will hire a site manager and maintenance worker to oversee the properties. That should occur within the next month or two, Creason said.
After 15 years, renters will be eligible for Carlson Gardner’s home ownership program.
Carlson Gardner is using state funding and tax credits made available by the 2007 flood to build the homes, which originally were pegged for an area near the Russell Stover Candies plant in northwest Iola.
When the candy plant objected, the developer — working in league with the city and Iola Industries — found the new site west of Cedarbrook.
That land needed infrastructure, such as streets and utilities, before construction could begin.
“We’re really pretty good at building houses,” Creason said. “We just had to wait a bit before we could start, and we had to reapply for various permits from the state. It’s been a learning curve for everyone.”
Creason praised the city for its efforts to develop infrastructure.
“We’ve been committed to the city all along, and the city has been committed to expanding into the new neighborhood,” Creason said. “And there’s plenty of room for other developers. It’s really going to be a nice neighborhood.”
A big plus for the site are mature trees and handsome landscaping typical of a golf course.

AS CREWS continue to expand Cottonwood Street to the north and a labyrinth of arterial roads to the west, other developers have taken notice, said Iola City Administrator Judy Brigham.
Iola is working with Dean Developers, which hopes to build an apartment complex for seniors near the Carlson Gardner site. Dean officials are working to receive tax credits for construction while the city seeks state grant funding to continue to expand its infrastructure.
Meanwhile, two other developers — one seeking to build multi-family housing, the other single-family homes — have expressed interest in building there, Brigham said.
And earlier this month, the city reached agreement with USD 257 for Iola High School building trades students to build their next home in the Cedarbrook neighborhood.
“I’m confident we’re going to see several new rooftops in the area eventually,” Brigham said.