HURON — When Steve Boote walked into the Huron Event Center meeting room last Tuesday evening, it was the first time that most of those in attendance at the town hall referendum had seen him.
Boote is the owner of Eagle Construction, the company that is slated to build the apartments and townhouses that will become WheatGrass Village.
Depending on how the vote goes this Tuesday.
Tuesday’s election is a referendum on the Huron City Commission’s approval of rezoning on a large parcel of the Southtown Addition, from single family to multi family and paving the way for the construction of WheatGrass Village.
Boote has been in the construction business for decades, with a string of successful similar projects in Mitchell and Yankton in South Dakota and others that are identical and underway in Storm Lake and Spencer, Iowa, to what is planned in Huron.
“I grew up in northwestern Iowa, born and raised in Orange City,” Boote said by telephone last week from his office in Sioux Falls. “I always had an interest in the building trades and trained as a mechanical engineer.”
After his college graduation, Boote said he went to New York City, working on renovations and millwork on historic buildings there and in Westchester County.
“Three years later I moved back to Orange City and started a small construction company - remodeling and some construction. We built several Subway restaurants. After awhile, I was looking for something a little more exciting, so I moved to Sioux Falls. That was 27 years ago.”
Boote said he worked for two of the larger contractors in the state in Sioux Falls, really learning the trade from them. “I started Eagle Construction in 2003.”
Boote said that he is is planning to build housing that has been refined and has been proven successful. “All of our housing units are similar; they have the same bloodline. They are all similar in looks and finishes; have a combination of one, two, and three bedroom apartments, along with three and four bedroom townhouses.”
Boote said the four bedroom townhouses are something that his company decided to add in Spirit Lake and Spencer and the response has been very good.
“The 10 townhouses that we put up in Spirit Lake were filled in the matter of a month,” he said. The townhouses all have two-and-a-half bathrooms, including a master suite. Botte said that four-bedroom townhouses are rarely seen, but they work well for families.
Boote told the town hall audience that the project is poised to begin, if the Yes vote prevails.
He reiterated that assertion on the phone.
“We will be ready to roll within weeks,” he said. “We figure 10 months of construction.”
He also said at the meeting that the aim is to have a 95 percent occupancy within seven months. He said that is an expected occupancy, but it is not a do-or-die number.
“That is our target,” he said. “Based on our research and how we see the housing needs, I don’t think those numbers lie. In my opinion, the numbers show a pretty severe need and those occupancy numbers will hold up.”
Why placement is important
Opponents of the rezoning asked during the hearing processes that the unit move to the north - away from their existing homes - and nearer to existing and planned multi-family housing.
“If you’re a student of planning or architecture design, instructors across the nation will tell you that when planning for a city, you make sure that industrial is apart from commercial,” he said.
“After commercial, you buffer the development with multi family, then something like an eight-plex style building. Then twin homes and single family. In a perfect world, that is how communities are designed.
Boote said that when looking at the Southtown development, it mirrors the preferred design. “It’s what an urban planner would do if they started with a blank piece of paper and started laying out the addition.”
“When you go down the main street - I think it is 24th Street - you start with the car dealership that is going to be built. You will be able to see WheatGrass Village from the highway, and you will go through light commercial and into the multi family area. Turning left or right, will take you into the twin homes and single family area.”
Boote said that he can see the area between his development and existing houses filling in with other homes.
“In Yankton, when we built the apartment, 33 other lots were developed at the same time,” Boote said. “Those were developed using a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) just like what is being used in Huron,” he said. “All of those lots either have houses built or are under construction now. And we started from virgin farm ground there. There was demand and excitement, just as I believe there will be here.”
Boote said that moving the complex north would disrupt the national flow of the project as it is planned.
“Having us move to a completely different location didn’t fit the bill,” he said. “There is just not the momentum of the commercial and into residential. Same reasoning as moving it further north. It takes all of the things to make a community. They all exist in a good design.”
If it is greenlighted
If the yes votes prevail, Boote said that it is his intent to work with local tradesmen whenever they can, including the management of the site when completed if possible. “The one thing that doesn’t usually happen is framing - the job is so large. It did work in Spirit Lake, my crew teamed with a local contractor, and it worked out great for the project. In round numbers, I like to say that $7 million of the $8 million for the project stays local. And that is for primary purchases, statistics show that funds will turn over five or six times. That is a substantial impact. And we have talked about management with several different agencies in different towns, but it just hasn’t worked out for them.”
“There is no question our business model works,” Boote said. “Every apartment and townhouse we build becomes a bit more efficient than the one before. It might be something as simple as moving a cabinet a couple inches to make it more accessible.”
Boote said that when the facility has tenants, his management company holds meetings to get feedback from the people living in the facility. “We work hard to become a part of the community. I expect the name of the facility - WheatGrass Village - to become a household word.”