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Parkside development in Charles City breaks ground for new homes

  • Jennifer Breister, project manager for Crown Point Builders, talks at the Parkside groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning about the new homes that will be built at the Charles City project. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Dean Stewart, center, of Stewart Realty, talks about the Parkside project that will feature about 18 residences in nine twin homes and six single family homes, during the groundbreaking ceremony held at the site Friday morning. From left are Jennifer Breister, vice president and project manager for Crown Point Builders, developers for the project; Stewart; and Paul and Lynne Breister, president and vice president of the family-owned company from Garner.

  • Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews makes a few comments at the groundbreaking for the Parkside housing development Friday morning. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Persons participating in the groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning for the Parkside development are, from left, Jim Davis; Mayor Dean Andrews; Veronica Litterer with Stewart Realty; Dean Stewart with Stewart Realty; Jennifer, Paul and Lynne Breister, owners of Crown Point Construction of Garner; and City Administrator Steve Diers. Press photo by Bob Steenson

By Bob Steenson,

Ground was broken Friday morning on a housing project that could add more than 20 new residences in Charles City, with city leaders and project participants all agreeing on the great need for such construction.

The project combines Parkside Villa — an energy-efficient subdivision off of South Main Street that was started seven years ago but not completed — with Crown Point Builders of Garner, Stewart Realty of Charles City and incentives from the city.

Jennifer Breister, vice president and project manager for the family-owned Crown Point Builders, said she and her parents, Paul and Lynne, “are really excited to get to be a part of the community.”

“We all recognize the growing need for housing in our communities, and we’re very excited to partner with Stewart Realty to offer these in-demand housing solutions,” she said. “The twin homes here at Parkside are going to be 1,300 square feet, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and feature 9-foot ceilings and heated double garages.”

The homes won’t have basements, but each unit will feature a reinforced area that will double as a storm shelter.

Breister said the homes would be heated and cooled by tying into the underground geothermal system that serves the existing Parkside homes, and the homes would have optional solar power available also.

“We are hoping to be releasing them starting at $235,000, and then we have a few upgrade packages including fireplaces, tiled showers, locker systems, luxury closet systems that would be offered as well,” she said.

“We are very proud to partner with local subcontractors and we will prioritize environmentally friendly products and sustainable practices,” Breister said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We can’t wait for you guys to see the finished project in May,” she said, referring to the first two units expected to be completed then.

Dean Stewart said the need for new housing has existed in the community since he started with Stewart Realty 32 years ago, and was confirmed by a regional housing study performed in the spring of 2019.

“We’ve got great housing. We’ve got great affordable housing in this area,” he said, “but what we don’t have is new replacement homes.”

Stewart said the city is lucky to have employers like Cambrex, Zoetis, Mitas, Winnebago and others that draw employees to the community, but many of those employees drive in from other areas because they can’t find appropriate housing.

“We’re in a spot where we need to build modest real estate … that accommodates the needs for retirees or singles and people that live or work here,” Stewart said. “We just need them. We need them now.”

He praised Crown Point Builders, saying, “these guys know how to build.”

“People standing here have been to their properties. We’ve been in them. We’ve seen the work that they’ve done and it’s excellent,” Stewart said.

The Parkside Villa project began in 2013 as a series of energy-efficient single and twin homes built on the site of the former Jefferson Elementary School off South Main Street. The homes use a neighborhood underground geothermal system to provide heating and cooling, and use solar panels to help with electricity.

A Sustainable Communities Demonstration Grant as well as funds to help mitigate the impact of the 2008 flood helped subsidize the cost of building and purchasing the homes for qualified buyers during the early years of the project, but that funding is no longer available and only about a third of the potential lots were developed.

City Administrator Steve Diers said at a City Council meeting in August that in today’s market it costs more to build a modest-priced home than it can be sold for.

The City Council approved a letter of intent with Crown Point Builders to pay $17,500 toward the cost of each lot purchased in Parkside, with the increased property taxes paid on the properties reimbursing the city.

At the City Council meeting Monday evening, the council approved setting a public hearing for Dec. 21 to consider expanding the South Grand Urban Renewal Area to include the Parkside property and adding the Parkside project to the urban renewal plan, and another public hearing that same date to approve the economic development agreement with Crown Point.

Breister said Crown Point already purchased the first four lots for its project from Parkside Development.

Diers said when the city tax increment financing (TIF) district amendments are approved and the development agreement is approved, the city will reimburse Crown Point $17,500 for each of those lots.

Breister said there is a potential for 22 units to be built in the project, mostly twin homes and some single-family residences, with the potential for four or more units on lots in the west part of the development.

“We may be able to fit more units in those lots,” she said.

“We’ll be doing everything in succession, so we’ll be starting on the units here on the corner lot and then moving toward the east, and the first two units should be ready the beginning of May, and then maybe three-four weeks later the following ones will be ready,” she said.

Asked about building in winter, Breister said, “We’re used to it.”

“As long as we get the excavation done, as long as we get the concrete in when the weather’s still decent then we don’t really have any troubles getting everything buttoned up pretty quickly. We may get slowed down a little bit with ice or snow and mud and all of that, but usually we can just keep trucking through it,” she said.

“The demand we see is so high that we can’t really sit back and wait out the winters anymore,” Breister said.