Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 16, 2018

Neighborhood Builders and Developers

Meeting Fairfield’s demand for housing
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Aug 03, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo A view of the first four-plex built in the Lincoln Court Subdivision off South Main Street in Fairfield. A duplex in the development has been built and sold, and another four-plex is under construction.

What was once just prairie grass off South Main Street is now the constant sight of constant construction thanks to Neighborhood Builders and Developers.

In the fall of 2017, the development company built a four-plex near the intersection of Highway 1 and Libertyville Road, on the east side between Pilot Grove Savings Bank and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Another building, this time a duplex, was finished earlier this year and is already inhabited. A second duplex between them is under construction and should be finished by late August.

The series of buildings are all part of what the development group has dubbed “Phase I” on its 13-acre plot called the Lincoln Court Subdivision. A total of three phases are planned, and dirt moving for Phase II has already begun. If all goes according to plan, as many as 40 units could be built on the property.

Neighborhood Builders and Developers began after a group of investors noticed a shortage of housing in southeast Iowa. They looked at several locations and determined that Fairfield’s market was the one where supply was far short of demand.

When the developers broke ground on the first four-plex in 2017, it was the culmination of 1.5 years of planning and permit applications.

Chris Davis, a member of the group’s sales team, said people have already put down deposits for units in a building in Phase II, though there are a few units available in Phase I. He said the duplex was built before the second four-plex because the group was able to sell it.


Court Street paving

On top of the units planned for Phase II, a north-south street will be paved between the two four-plexes on the west side and the duplex on the east side. That street will be called Court Street since it will more or less align with the Court Street several blocks north of it. It will connect to Lincoln Avenue that runs on the south side of the development.

The construction of Court Street will be funded with a 15-year tax increment financing (TIF) agreement with city of Fairfield, Jefferson County and Fairfield Community School District. It means the property taxes paid by the condo owners will pay for the street over the next 15 years.

The development aims to address the need for new housing in Fairfield due to population growth and economic expansion in the area which is drawing workers from out of town. City Administrator Aaron Kooiker told The Ledger earlier this year about how big financial and industrial companies are contributing to the town’s growth.

“We have a number of businesses in our big industrial community that have people driving in from a lot of different areas. So having more housing available will help us attract these folks to live in Fairfield,” Kooiker said.

Davis said the project has gone well and will pay off in the end. He and the other investors know this is a long-term project and they have to be patient.

All properties are for sale and not rent. Davis said the developers would prefer not to be landlords.


Phase II

Phase I contains 10 units, and Phase II will contain another 17. The units will be divided into three four-plexes, a tri-plex and a duplex. Two units in one of the four-plexes are already sold.

Davis and the other developers want to see how well the units in Phase II sell before making firm plans about Phase III. The tentative plan for the third phase is to have three more four-plexes.

“We’ll wait for the market to show us what it wants,” he said. “That will tell us what to design for the next phase.”

Davis noted the demand for duplexes is high, not surprising given how quickly the duplex in Phase I sold.

The first building in Phase II will be started this fall, and the second one will wait until spring.

Davis said most of the buyers so far have relocated from another house in Fairfield. He’s noticing that the units have been popular with young people, though they were designed to be accommodating to the elderly as well with wide, three-foot door frames and no stairs.

“We tried to design it so it would appeal to younger people, too,” he said. “It’s a condo association, so maintenance is taken care of by the home owners association.”

That means owners don’t need to worry about mowing the lawn, shoveling snow or making repairs to their building’s exterior such as the roof and siding. Interior repairs are the individual owners’ responsibility.

“There are younger people who don’t want to mess around with yard work. It’s just their lifestyle. They’d rather play golf than mow the lawn,” he said.


Libertyville Road extension?

An idea the developers have floated is extending Libertyville Road east into the development. However, they have not reached an agreement on that.

Part of the indecision falls on the uncertainty of what the state will do with South Highway 1. The Iowa Department of Transportation allocated $3.5 million to widen Highway 1 from two lanes to three lanes between Fillmore Avenue and Libertyville Road for fiscal year 2022. The project includes acquiring right-of-ways, adding a 10-foot wide trail on one side, curb and gutter pavement and storm sewer improvements. It will also improve the intersection of Libertyville Road and Highway 1.

City Engineer Melanie Carlson said back in March that the road could be widened to as many as four lanes, or a roundabout could be built at the intersection of Highway with Libertyville Road.

Davis said the developers want to wait to see if anyone is interested in buying one of the two commercial lots west of the housing development. He said a few people have inquired about buying the commercial land, but no agreement has been reached.

The proprietors of Neighborhood Builders are Developers are Chris and Debbi Davis, Steve and Tami Kramer (Steve is also construction manager), Adam and Katie Plagge, Harold and Sherri Dawson, and Charlie and Nancy Stewart.

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