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Housing: A necessary boom; Williams Bend is rising

The need is identified as something that must be addressed to help facilitate economic growth

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A crew from Gelhausen Construction, of Fort Dodge, works on setting roof trusses in place Friday morning at the Williams Bend site in northern Fort Dodge.

People traveling on busy North 15th Street can easily spot progress on an effort to address a longstanding shortage of homes in Fort Dodge.

A new duplex is being built just north of The Station, 2320 N. 15th St.

A few other duplexes are going up near the intersection of 20th Avenue North and Williams Drive.

Those are some of the first homes being built in a neighborhood called Williams Bend on property that long-time Fort Dodge residents know as the Theiss farm.

The Theiss farm extends across both sides of Williams Drive between 20th and 25th avenues north. On the east side of Williams Drive, the property extends almost to North 15th Street. It was purchased in 2016 by the city government and the Fort Dodge Betterment Foundation for the purpose of establishing a site where new homes can be built.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
This property, near Williams Drive and 20th Avenue North, is slated to be the site of new housing. The Fort Dodge Planning and Zoning Commission took action to advance the proposal.

Eventually, all of the former farm property will be filled with houses, duplexes and apartments under plans that were launched in 2017.

Construction is underway on some duplexes and a new section of 24th Avenue North is being built between Williams Drive and North 15th Street.

Local business and government leaders have long been concerned about the city’s housing supply.

“Right now, I believe the biggest threat to economic growth in Fort Dodge would be the ability to get a trained workforce,” said Dennis Plautz, the chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance. “That’s why quality of life is so important and housing is part of quality of life.”

Representatives of the Growth Alliance received a stark reminder of the need for housing when they met last year with executives from a major company with a facility in the city.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Roof trusses await installation Friday morning as work progesses on a building project at Williams Bend in the northern half of Fort Dodge.

The executives said that they had eight people transferred into the local site in the 60 days preceding the meeting and all of them settled in Ames, nearly 70 miles away, because they couldn’t find a home in Fort Dodge.

That was disappointing, but not entirely surprising, according to Plautz.

He said the executives of the company, which he declined to name, weren’t the first business leaders to point out the lack of housing in Fort Dodge. He said the subject comes up “all the time.”

Plautz said the city needs both “numbers and diversity of housing.”

Local bankers also see evidence of the housing shortage. At least some banks in Fort Dodge have customers that are preapproved for a mortgage, but don’t have one because they can’t find a house to buy.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Construction workers build one of a series of duplexes near the intersection of Williams Drive and 20th Avenue North on part of the former Theiss farm property. There will be five duplexes with 1,600 square feet of living space and a two car garage.

John Taets, president of Northwest Bank, said his institution has a “considerable amount of mortgage customers” who fall into that category.

He said there is a strong demand for homes, but a low inventory of ones that are available.

Turning the old Theiss farm into the Williams Bend neighborhood is intended to address that situation.

The City Council and the foundation have sold the property to developers who are required to build homes there.

• The first of those developers is Tice Farm Housing LLC, which is led by local businessman Mike McCarville.

That firm is building five duplexes at the intersection of 20th Avenue North and Williams Drive.

Each unit will have 1,600 square feet of living space and a two-car garage. They will have radiant in-floor heating.

Each unit will be sold for $200,000 or less.

• Windstone Circle LLC, of Fort Dodge, will build 12 duplexes.

The one going up near North 15th Street is the first of those 12. The others will be built along a new private drive to be called 23rd Place North that will extend from Williams Drive.

Those duplexes will be identical to the ones the company built near Second Avenue South and U.S. Highway 169. Each unit will have two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage. They will rent for $1,000 to $1,200 a month.

• Northwest Iowa Building Co. LLC., of Ankeny, will construct homes on both sides of Williams Drive.

It will build 48 single family homes, 20 duplexes and a 55-unit apartment complex on the east side of Williams Drive.

It will build 74 single family homes, 20 duplexes and 60 row homes in 10 buildings of six units each on the west side of Williams Drive.

• Rasch Construction Inc., of Fort Dodge, is building the new section of 24th Avenue North between Williams Drive and North 15th Street to support the housing development. It has a $1,134,407 contract with the city government for that job.

The road work is to be completed by May, according to City Engineer Tony Trotter.

The push to develop the Williams Bend neighborhood hasn’t been without some criticism and controversy.

Last year, Brian McClain ran for the Ward 4 City Council seat in part because of his opposition to multi-family housing in the proposal. He was defeated by Councilman Kim Alstott.

And Roy Dillon, who served on the city’s Plan and Zoning Commission for 25 years, publicly questioned if the city was conducting all the necessary reviews of the project.

Final approval of the housing development on the east side of Williams Drive was granted by the City Council in October.

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