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Published March 18, 2013, 02:54 PM

Firm Plans 200-Plus Homes in Grand Forks

The empty space of Thames Court in northwest Grand Forks will look different once Joe Genovese is through with it. Genovese’s company, Genco Bakken Development, finalized the purchase of the court’s 71 lots from the Grand Forks Housing Authority earlier this month. He hopes to be laying foun-dations for new homes in the space as early as May.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald

The empty space of Thames Court in northwest Grand Forks will look different once Joe Genovese is through with it.

Genovese’s company, Genco Bakken Development, finalized the purchase of the court’s 71 lots from the Grand Forks Housing Authority earlier this month. He hopes to be laying foun-dations for new homes in the space as early as May.

“We’re going to get in the ground as soon as the frost will let us,” Genovese said.

He expects construction to wrap up within one year or two building cycles at the most.

The company plans to include a variety of home choices in Thames Court. As platted, the area has 10 single-family, 16 twin and 45 townhome lots — more than 200 potential housing units.

The company has completed similar developments in Minot and Williston, N.D., and is looking to build in Bismarck, Jamestown, N.D., and Fargo.

Affordable homes

All of the homes will be high quality but won’t carry a high-end price, according to Geno-vese. He puts the median selling price of homes in the development between $165,000 and $175,000.

The single-family home featuring the largest lot would come in at about $230,000. The low-est-priced homes would start at around $140,000.

Homes at that price could fill a demand the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Housing discovered while analyzing the Grand Forks housing market. The commission found homes valued from $105,000 to $224,999 spent the shortest period of time on the market in 2012.

“We’re excited to bring affordable housing to Grand Forks,” Genco employee George Hol-man told City Council members March 11.

An affordable home should be around three times the median household income in the city, according to the 2012 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.

In Grand Forks, the 2012 median house price would be $142,200 but instead is $169,900, leading the commission to conclude that the city’s housing stock is “moderately unaffordable.”

Quick build

The low-cost homes slotted for the development are made possible by a hybrid solution.

Genovese said Genco will use a mix of modular and stick-built homes in the development. Modular homes are built offsite and assembled on the lot, which takes anywhere from one to three months. They are legal in all residentially-zoned land in Grand Forks.

Any modular home used in Thames Court will come from Champion Homes, a Michigan-based company with manufacturing facilities around the country, according to Genovese.

Stick-built homes are constructed on the lot and usually take six to nine months to build — barring interruptions from weather.

“We’ve learned a lot about the North Dakota building cycle,” Holman said of the state’s short construction season.

While modular homes can be erected onsite faster than a traditional home, Genovese says the company wants to utilize local contractors in constructing other homes from the round up.

Also adding to the project’s speed is the fact the subdivision’s underground infrastructure is already in place, allowing construction to begin almost immediately on the homes.

Fitting in

The Thames Court homes will be built to resemble the neighboring Promenade Court homes located just across Eighth Avenue North.

“They’ll be consistent with existing housing but with a more modern twist,” Genovese said.

The surrounding neighborhoods were established following the 1997 flood. The housing au-thority acquired the land for Promenade and Thames courts with plans to give the area a jumpstart on providing affordable housing, Community Development Manager Meredith Richards said.

The first of Promenade Court’s 51 homes were sold in 2004 with the last for-sale sign coming down in 2011. Of the 51 homes built, all but one sold for less than $150,000, according to the housing authority. The remaining home sold for $152,000.

Building in the Thames Court subdivision was the next step to establishing more affordable homes in that area, but the housing market took a turn for the worse and prompted the agency to eventually sell the lots to Genco, according to Richards.

The Thames Court homes will not be managed by the housing authority, but Genovese said interested buyers have already been in contact with the agency and his company.

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