$36 million in new construction but only 13 new homes in 2019
Although end-of-the-year construction totals within the city of Greencastle nearly topped the $36 million figure for 2019, single-family housing starts aren’t keeping pace.
Only 13 single-family housing starts were reported for 2019, Building Commissioner Pat Thibodeau’s figures show.
That is less than the number of housing starts for the previous two years, which saw 21 new homes constructed in 2017 and 20 in 2018.
Most of the 13 new starts -- nine to be exact -- can be attributed to the new Whispering Winds Subdivision being developed by Jared Grable of Greencastle. His project at Zinc Mill Road and South Street has entered its second phase of development on the city’s southeast side.
Commenting on the 2019 number, Thibodeau noted that the year “started out like gangbusters.”
“I thought it was going to be a big year but it stalled out in mid to late summer,” the building commissioner added.
The 13 new homes, Thibodeau said, “has been kind of consistent with the national average.”
Single-family housing was a boon locally from 1995-2002 when Deer Fields Estates was in the midst of major construction. During that 11-year period, 300 new homes were built, including 44 in 1995.
But then a lull emerged, starting in 2008 when only 10 new homes were built, a number that was duplicated in 2009.
From the period 2010-2016, however, new home construction fell into single digits for the entire year with a high of 10 in 2015 and a low of just one new home in 2014.
Since that boom in 1995-2005, only 131 new homes have been built over the last 14 years.
Mayor Bill Dory pointed to the lack of available building lots within city limits as the issue. There are a few “in-fill” lots left in Deer Field in addition to Whispering Winds, the mayor said.
At a recent city meeting it was suggested that the only way to increase households is to annex areas into the city. That off-hand suggestion was met mainly with groans.
Looking at the construction costs, the city’s 2019 figure was $35,981,783. That figure -- representing “significant investment” -- was buoyed by the $20 million new residence hall at DePauw University, Thibodeau said.
“They spent a lot of money on Hoover Hall (the new dining hall that has been open since 2016), but nothing like this,” the building commissioner said, noting that the DePauw Lilly Center remodeling for the campus medical center was a quarter of a million dollar project.
Overall, the annual city construction cost figure, he said, “has pretty much been staying in the $30 million area.”
Along figuring into the 2019 construction cost total was Zinc Mill Terrace, the apartment complex entering its second phase south of Tennessee Street.
Phase 2, with a reported 92 living units, is well under way. The footers has been poured for the third building, Thibodeau noted.