Work set to start on 38-unit downtown apartment complex

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Construction began at the first of the year on the 38-unit Willis Avenue Apartments project at 913 Willis Ave.

Representative of Construction Management Associates, general contractors for the Willis Avenue Apartments project of Bear Development, met Tuesday with project subcontractors, city of Perry representatives and a representative from the Iowa Finance Authority, which provided the tax credits financing the construction project.
Representative of Construction Management Associates, general contractors for the Willis Avenue Apartments project of Bear Development, met Tuesday for a preconstruction meeting with several project subcontractors, a city of Perry representative and a representative of the Iowa Finance Authority, which provided the tax credits financing the construction project.

Groundbreaking on the $6.3 million Willis Avenue Apartments complex in downtown Perry could begin as early as next week, according to representatives of Construction Management Associates Inc. (CMA), general contractors for the project, who held a preconstruction meeting Tuesday at the Hotel Pattee.

Jim Koback, CMA safety director and director of construction, and Rick Norsen, CMA project superintendent, discussed protocols for the work with subcontractors, including the job’s plumbers, carpenters and concrete workers.

The Willis Avenue Apartments would be located on Willis Avenue east of Pattee Park.
The Willis Avenue Apartments would be located on Willis Avenue east of Pattee Park.

The 38-unit workforce housing complex is a project of Kenosha, Wis.-based Bear Development and is receiving part of its financing in the form of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) administered by the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA).

The apartments will be built at 913 Willis Ave., south of the Perry Police Department offices and east of Pattee Park. Construction is expected to take about one year, and the one-, two- and four-bedroom units will start renting early in 2017.

The architect's rendering of the Willis Avenue Apartments, a Bear Development project, shows the north face of the building.
The architect’s rendering of the Willis Avenue Apartments, a Bear Development project, shows the north face of the building. Source: Bear Development

Koback discussed the importance of worker safety to CMA and the measures the company takes to ensure a safe workplace.

“We’re not so much concerned about OSHA fines,” Koback said, “but about guys getting hurt on the job. We want to make sure everyone goes home at night.”

OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an office of the U.S. Department of Labor that enforces federal workplace safety regulations.

Bear Development owns and manages about 90 properties in 10 states, including single-family houses, apartment complexes, hotels, retail and commercial spaces and industrial sites, according to Bear Development Senior Project Manager Joe Schwenker.

JoeSchweker
Joe Schwenker

“LIHTC is a large portion of the financing package,” Schwenker said, “but there will be other sources.” He said the Bear Development workforce housing will serve Perry residents earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year.

“By virtue of the IFA program,” he said, “there are various checks and balances that will keep the property in good condition for an extended period of time.”

John Kerss
John Kerss

John Kerss, IFA construction analyst, was on hand at Tuesday’s preconstruction meeting to explain the IFA’s role in the building process. He said the finance authority makes four inspections over the course of a project: when the foundation is laid, when the structure is roughed-in with electrical, plumbing and mechanical work, when appliances and finishes are installed and when the building is complete and even partially occupied.

Kerss will also be the point person on Perry’s other LIHTC-financed construction project, the Hamlin-Bell building at Willis Avenue and 10th Street, also slated to begin within days.

Norsen said he started lining up contractors at the start of November and did his best to hire local trades persons.

“I called every contractor in Perry,” Norsen said, “and one is getting awarded the parking lot, sidewalk and gutters. Dave Harland is doing that. And Sean Hick Electric is working on his bid as we speak. But everybody else in the Perry area turned it down. It’s only because they don’t have the manpower. I called every contractor in Perry first before I went elsewhere.”

Norsen said nine of about 30 contracts have been let so far, and he expects the remainder will be awarded the remainder by the end of next week.

“Demo and rocking of the parking lot is starting on Monday,” he said, “and the foundation man is supposed to start the following week, so yeah, it’s going to be busy.”

The fence is up, and there is electric power to the tool crib at the Willis Avenue Apartments construction site.
The fence is up, and there is electric power to the tool crib at the Willis Avenue Apartments construction site.

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