Plans nearly complete for 36 new 'affordable housing' units

Friday, August 3, 2012

A $5-6 million project in the works would bring "affordable housing" to those of moderate to middle income in Blytheville.

Springfield, Mo.-based Gardner Capital has purchased property on the corner of Dogwood and South Division to build 36 duplex home units.

According to to Tammi Creason, Gardner Capital's director of acquisitions and underwriting, the homes will rent for around $450 and include three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage.

She said the units are spacious, open and "hopefully a real asset and resource to that moderate, middle income family that is looking for quality housing in the Blytheville area."

There is an income ceiling to qualify for affordable housing.

"It is called workforce housing," Creason said. "We don't subsidize the rent for anybody. Everybody has to pay the same amount of rent. But they do have to make below a certain amount annually in order to qualify for that. So, as long as you make below the area median income, then you would qualify."

She said the project is in the beginning stages.

"We have received our financing and everything," Creason said. "It's a participation with the Arkansas Development Finance Commission and working with private financing stuff on the construction, lending, etc. We do have all of that in place now."

The company is going through the plan review process and hopes to start the project as early as September if all goes well.

Creason said the building process takes about a year.

"We hope to have some homes available at the beginning of the year, depending on early spring," she said, noting the company plans to solicit bids in the next couple of weeks.

Creason added Gardner tries to use local suppliers and the local workforce.

"We're very excited about this opportunity in Blytheville," she said.

Gardner Capital has been developing affordable housing for about 17 years in the Midwest, mostly in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Several years ago, the company rehabbed the old Ely & Walker Shirt Factory in Kennett.

"We actually have a couple of properties in the Bootheel area," Creason said, one reason Gardner was drawn to Blytheville. "Just in our time in Kennett, through local connections, several of us have family in the Blytheville area and who go to Blytheville to shop and different areas within some of those smaller towns right there in the Bootheel area. Really when we're looking at projects on a statewide basis, we try really hard to be involved in the municipal level."

She said the company's founder "had a heart for local municipality. It's always been a foundation of our company to start at the local level and say where is it needed, where is that momentum, mayor?"

Blytheville's industrial base apparently attracted the company here.

"I know Blytheville has done a lot and has several economic development plans in place that they were really trying to promote and create industry, which is something that, we as affordable housing, strongly believe that the two go hand in hand," Creason said. "Affordable housing should be there to support industry and likewise industry needs affordable housing to be able to stay in a community and attract workforce to an area. I think Blytheville has a lot of the denominators that we look for. There is good industry in the area and they have an excited municipal effort going to work on economic development in and around that specific area, trying to bridge that with the college (Arkansas Northeastern College) and everything there. It had several key elements."

The company plans to tear down the vacant cement building on Division and make that the entrance to the property.

Creason hopes local residents will see activity on the project in a couple of months.