Residential construction continuing at brisk pace
There may be a cool breeze blowing, but when it comes to construction, Tonganoxie is a hot spot.
Local Realtor Dan Lynch said he looks for the construction heat wave to continue.
-- Source: City of Tonganoxie
"I think Tonganoxie has great appeal to a lot of people," Lynch said. "We've got a grocery store, we've got a wonderful downtown, we have a Mayberry appeal to us and I really think a lot of people come here for that reason. I think that's why Tongie will remain hot."
During 2004, Tonganoxie issued 86 permits for new construction, said Kathy Bard, Tonganoxie city clerk. That includes 60 single-family permits, 13 duplexes, three multifamily and two commercial. This follows a growth trend that began in 1999.
Builder Jack Willis is deep into working on Jackson Heights, a 199-lot development southeast of Leavenworth County Road 5 and Parallel Road.
The first phase of Jackson Heights includes 22 lots.
"We have 11 houses started now," Willis said Thursday. "... We just got one fairly finished up, it's going to be completed by the first of the year."
Willis plans to have his business build all the houses.
"If that works out then yes we'll be going right on with the rest of them."
An entrepreneur of sorts, Willis also is contracting for another purchase -- the former Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
He de-clined to reveal his offering price, but originally, the church had hoped to sell the building for at least $106,000. Willis also purchased vacant land on the block where the church is located. Right now, Willis and his wife, Estee, don't know what they'll do with the church.
"We were talking in the very beginning about maybe leasing it out to a daycare, or maybe turning it into a house," Willis said. "Or there could be another church come in. We may put it right back on the market and try to sell it."
Currently, the area surrounding the church is zoned as single-family residential. To fit in with the neighborhood, the church building would have to be used as a church, or as an institution, service or social service agency that would be compatible with the area.
In addition to the church property and Jackson Heights, Willis is building four houses in a small subdivision near Jarbalo, and he's adding on to his storage business at the corner of County Road 5 and Laming Road.
In recent years, an active work schedule has become the norm for Willis, and other area builders.
"It just seems like there's always something to do around here," Willis said.
Banking on it
Bill Altman, president of Community National Bank, is encouraged by the area's building industry.
"It's very good, very robust, about as good as any year I can remember," said Altman, who has worked in the banking industry for 28 years.
Activity on spec houses has been healthy.
"One thing we do notice is when you get over $275,000 price in the spec market, it slows down," Altman said. "But the median-priced spec loans are doing very well."
Median-priced homes, he noted range from $125,000 to $175,000.
Altman predicted that in 2005, interest rates will slowly rise.
"But I don't think they'll be dramatic enough to shut down the housing demand," Altman said.
"Ten years ago, people were taking out first mortgage loans at 10.5 percent, so a half percent to three-fourths percent rise in a year should not impact the economy that much."
And, Altman said, activity in the Kansas City area, including projects in downtown Kansas City, Mo., and Village West in Wyandotte County will continue to be positive for Tonganoxie.
"And a lot of our union guys are having more work coming on line this past year," Altman said.
While loans at the bank have surged, Altman said deposits have been sluggish.
"I don't know if that's due to alternative investments," Altman said noting the popularity of the stock market. "Typically, our customers have been loyal and are weathering through these lower rates," Altman said. "Generally, they're extending the terms on the CD maturity to get the higher rates."
While much growth has focused on Tonganoxie's east side, Greg and Karen Ward are about to embark on a west-end project, Timber Hill Farms.
The 27-acre single-family subdivision will be constructed just north of Smiley and Hatchell roads.
The first phase of the project includes 21 lots, with the total project platted into 63 lots.
The area includes a pond, around which the Wards plan to create walking trails.
Ward described Timber Hill as an upscale gated community.
The development's organizational setup will include a homeowner's association that will approve house designs.
"All construction will be subject to architectural review," said Ward, who's already selected several home designs to start with.
The houses, which will be about 1,300 square feet, will start in the mid $150,000-range, Ward said.
He's looking for the project to be up and running as soon as possible.
"We hope to have probably 10 houses go in right off the bat in May," Ward said. "I think things look really good for this year, economy-wise."
He noted the growth at Village West, a shopping area near Kansas Speedway.
"All that's coming on line out here," Ward said. "I think southern Leavenworth County is poised very well for growth."
Ward, who lives in Tonganoxie, said when he purchased the property it 1989, it was with the idea of developing it.
"I knew that Tonganoxie was going to grow," Ward said. "I knew what Tonganoxie had to offer people -- the small-town charm, the amenities, but yet still be close to the big city and all that has to offer, too. It was just a matter of time."