Sunday, November 9, 2003

Drees signs on with City West

Firm to build 176 houses in West End development

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST END - One of the country's largest homebuilders is now part of the largest effort to build houses in the city of Cincinnati in the past 60 years.

The Drees Co., one of the top 25 home-building companies in the nation, with headquarters in Fort Mitchell, has signed on to design and construct 176 single-family houses for the City West development in Cincinnati's West End.

Anne Mitchell, a Drees spokeswoman, said pricing for the houses isn't determined because they are still being designed.

But, she said, they will be two- and three-bedroom houses with garages. Some will have finished lower levels and some will sit atop the garage. Federal grant money will be available to make mortgage payments more affordable on about half of those houses.

Brad Beckett, spokesman for the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, said the 35 houses already built in City West have an average price of $178,000.

"The appreciation on those homes has been breathtaking," he said.

Drees has been building houses in the city since the 1980s, including Kiplington town home community in Mount Airy in 1988 and Longworth Square in the West End in 1993. Drees also is building the Mt. Airy Oaksdevelopment.

"We love having these opportunities," Mitchell said. "A lot of folks would like to live in the city, but in a new home."

Over the past few years, more than 500 new units of affordable and market-rate rentals and home-ownership units have been built in City West. That construction includes the creation of 15 blocks of new streets, sewers, utilities and other infrastructure necessary for the home-ownership phase to move forward.

Donald Troendle, the housing authority's executive director, said the development will benefit from Drees' experience and reputation.

"When this development is finished in a few years, the West End of Cincinnati will have led the way with the renaissance of Cincinnati's downtown neighborhoods," Troendle said in a prepared statement.

City West sits on the footprint of the former Lincoln Court and Laurel Homes public housing developments. In 1998 and 1999, the housing authority received $66.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to redevelop the site. When complete, it will include 1,085 units, with 250 being owner-occupied houses, evenly split between affordable and market-rate.

Federal money helps qualified people afford homes by offering a grant to bridge the gap between the loan amount approved by the bank and the cost of the home.

Drees repeated this year atop the Greater Cincinnati 100, a list of the region's top privately held companies. (See Business section).


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