Work is underway at the site of the newly-established Pleasant Point Rural Housing Incentive District — a housing development that will bring 10 new, single-family homes to a previously undeveloped tract of land in Emporia.
John Paul Sandstrom, a realtor with Farm and Home Real Estate, said the project started to form when he had discussions with Mark II Lumber Owners Stan Grimwood, Luke Schnakenberg and Aaron Trelc about building some homes in Emporia. The trio had been looking into starting a development project, with local contractor Francis Springeman already on board. Soon, Realtor Jerry Olmsted — also of Farm and Home — jumped on board as well.
“They really wanted to do some spec homes or build some homes in Emporia and I came across a property that I knew was something that person might sell,” Sandstrom said. “I showed the land to them and they really liked it.”
Located on an empty lot between Oak and Elm streets along Seventh Avenue, the group immediately saw potential.
“We were very excited to see some growth in town and we thought this was a great place for some development,” Schnakenberg said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and that area has just sat empty there, right there in the middle of town. For something like that that’s not a park or something, it seemed like a great opportunity not only for the town, but for all three of our businesses. We’ve got a pretty good group of people working together.”
With a good group in place, Sandstrom said they started looking at how to move forward and get started. That’s when they met met Eric Porter of ESB Financial, who told them about the state’s Rural Housing Incentive District program. The RHID program, which passed in 1998, was designed to help developers build housing in Kansas cities with populations less than 40,000 located in counties with populations of less than 60,000. Counties with total populations less than 40,000 are also eligible.
“ESB had just done it and were very familiar with the process and with the costs associated with developers,” Sandstrom said, noting that they then began working with City Consultant Jim Witt.
“Honestly, without that, we could not do this,” Schnakenberg added. “Some of the costs that are involved is minimal, but even then, it can’t be done without the RHID. Having the city there to help us made it possible for us to do this, because the RHID provides the collateral for us to get the money to do the things we need to do to get the site ready. It’s a great program.”
Designed by Mark II Lumber, the homes will be one-level, three bedroom, two-bathroom, slab designs with an open floor plan and attached two-car garage. The homes, which will range in size from 1,300 - 1,500 square feet, will also feature a dedicated storm shelter.
This will help keep the base price of the homes down, and will also potentially appeal to a wider array of buyers.
“We’ll have a designated tornado area, so if there is a tornado you don’t just jump into a bath tub — there’s a room that’s reinforced,” Schnakenberg said. “I don’t care how good your basement is, eventually you’re going to see water in your basement. So, people are just not building basements as much anymore and retired people don’t want basements as much anymore. They don’t want to go upstairs.”
Schnakenberg said the city has lost population because of the lack of mid-sized housing options.
“People are selling their homes and leaving to find other options,” he said. “If somebody thinks this is something they are interested in, they can come and buy it from the lot and build up from there. There’s custom availability there.”
Sandstrom said the price range for homes in the development is somewhere between $160,000 - $200,000, depending on the options the homeowners choose. Buyers will also have the option of purchasing the lots and building their own custom homes.
“I’d say the price would be between $160,000 - $170,000 for our spec homes,” Sandstrom said. “When you go in to customize a home, you can end up with some very expensive cabinets, flooring, things like that. That’s where, if somebody wants to do that, obviously with Mark II we can do anything they want to do.”
Schnakenberg said he understands the concern of those new homes being priced higher than the existing homes in the area, but said that is an unavoidable issue.
“You can’t build a home for less than that anymore,” he said. “That’s just the cost of building a house, so I don’t think there should be any concern with that.”
And preparations to start building the first two homes on the site have begun, with construction expected to ramp up in the coming weeks — weather permitting.
Both Sandstrom and Schnakenberg said they would like to see all 10 lots sold and built-on this year, though they know that might be a tall order. Still, they are already looking forward to working on the next development, should a good piece of land come available.
“The more houses we have, the better,” Schnakenberg said. “I think a lot of the industries in town are growing. When you build local, buy local, you don’t realize how much it affects the whole community. It’s amazing when you keep things local, and when you can do things the way we’re doing it; it really makes a difference in the end.”
Floor plans are available for viewing at Mark II Lumber, 825 E. Sixth Ave., and Farm and Home Real Estate, 2160 US Highway 50.