Springfield, MO

Log in Subscribe

NEIGHBORHOOD ADDITION: An artist’s rendering shows a small community of houses planned by the Drew Lewis Foundation in the Grant Beach neighborhood after the nonprofit purchased over an acre of mostly vacant land for the project.
provided by BRP ARCHITECTS
NEIGHBORHOOD ADDITION: An artist’s rendering shows a small community of houses planned by the Drew Lewis Foundation in the Grant Beach neighborhood after the nonprofit purchased over an acre of mostly vacant land for the project.

Nonprofit plans pocket neighborhood in Grant Beach

Drew Lewis Foundation seeks to build 12 houses by end of next year

Posted online

A nonprofit that began rehabilitating existing housing stock in the Grant Beach neighborhood several years ago has intentions to build roughly a dozen new homes by next year.

The planned construction project helmed by the Drew Lewis Foundation Inc. intends to create a pocket neighborhood in Grant Beach and boost affordable housing availability, said the nonprofit’s CEO, Amy Blansit. The organization recently purchased 1.2 acres of mostly vacant land from J.L. Reynolds LLC at the northwest corner of Broadway Avenue and Poplar Street. The purchase price was $115,000, Blansit said, adding the nonprofit took out a loan with Legacy Bank & Trust Co.

“We’ve been watching this property for some time,” she said, noting a “For Sale” sign had been on-site for around a decade. “We talked to them about what our idea was and what we wanted to do with the property, and they finally decided to sell.”

The property sits roughly a half-mile south of the nonprofit’s home at The Fairbanks, 1126 N. Broadway Ave.

“One of the reasons to invest in this is when we look at Broadway being one of the main corridors of Grant Beach from Chestnut Expressway to Division [Street], we’ve been looking at ways that we can help. We have some of the most historic houses in that section, so how can we purchase and invest in those?” she said, adding the property can serve as a corridor for new development.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes will be separated by roughly 10-12 feet and are expected to include recessed garages, front and back porches, and connecting sidewalks to help foster a sense of community. The floor plan for the roughly 1,800-square-foot, two-story houses has all bedrooms on the second floor.

“They’re going to have kind of that Craftsman style that is traditional in that neighborhood or sections of that neighborhood, but it’ll be unique for Springfield,” Blansit said of the architectural style that emphasizes the use of natural materials.

Blansit said the nonprofit, which has experience with housing renovation projects through its Blue House Project, will serve as lead contractor for the pocket neighborhood development. BRP Architects is the project architect.

Seeking affordability
Nonprofit officials want to keep the homes affordable for families and individuals that the foundation works with through initiatives such as its RISE program, which stands for Reaching Independence through Support and Education. It serves as a yearlong effort to help participants reach financial stability through coaching coupled with curriculum in areas including education, employment, debt reduction and parenting.

The goal is to have at least half of the homes priced at $135,000, with the remainder sold at current market rates, Blansit said.

“I would love for all of them to be ($135,000),” Blansit said. “But financially knowing that we’ve got to sell the houses and we’re going to be in traditional loans, it’s all going to depend on what we’re able to do for financing.”

Blansit said seeking additional donations and financial programs that offer down-payment assistance will aid in the affordable housing goal.

“It’s not like we’re going to try to put a house at a ridiculous price in that neighborhood. Based on the price that we do intend to sell, all of the houses are going to be sought after because they’re going to be a quality build,” she said. “They’re not going to be the very typical low-income neighborhood where it’s garage forward, everything kind of slapped together with same color, same palette. We’re going to be intentional about the design, the build, in order to also create a model for others to follow in their neighborhood or throughout Springfield.”

The 2021 Community Focus Report for Springfield and Greene County noted housing instability and a shortage of safe, affordable housing as red-flag issues. Only 36 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households, according to a 2022 report from Washington, D.C.-based National Low Income Housing Coalition. Blansit said the Blue House Project is trying to address the problem one house at a time.

The Blue House Project is a privately funded homeownership program launched six years ago where houses in the Grant Beach neighborhood are bought, renovated and rented primarily to RISE members who have graduated the nonprofit’s program with the goal of selling the home to them within two years.

Nineteen homes have been rehabilitated through the program, with four more currently undergoing renovation, Blansit said. Four of the houses are currently rentals, with two expected to be purchased this year.

“We’ve talked to amazing donors in the community that have in essence sponsored a house,” she said, adding the nonprofit aims to complete five homes a year. “Once we renovate the house and sell the house, we’re able to take that money and put it into the next house. So, it’s really revolving funds that allow us to do the next and the next.”

Blansit said the average purchase price the nonprofit has paid for the houses is around $55,000, adding the total investment is roughly $80,000. Most of the houses then resell in the $120,000 range but have been priced as high as $175,000.

A couple miles south of The Fairbanks, another low-income affordable housing project is nearing completion.

Nordic Landing is a roughly $10 million apartment complex adjoining the Grant Avenue Parkway corridor. Debbie Shantz Hart, co-owner of project developer DHTC Development LLC, said the 41-unit, 40,000-square-foot complex should receive a certificate of occupancy next month, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. The property is adjacent to a future teen center to be operated by Boys & Girls Club of Springfield Inc. The organization is targeting an early 2025 opening.

“Of our 41 units, eight will be set aside for youth aging out or opting out of the foster care system,” Hart previously told SBJ. “There’s some real synergy in that development with those two projects being side by side.”

Hart additionally is co-owner of Housing Plus LLC and Sustainable Housing Solutions LLC, which also develop affordable housing.

In progress
Of the four lots the Drew Lewis Foundation purchased, Blansit said three have been vacant for years.

“One of them may have had a house on it at some time, but at this point there’s not even city plumbing through the middle of the property. There’s access on Broadway, but there hasn’t been previous builds on this except on the southeast corner, which has a duplex,” she said, adding it will be demolished. “It also has been boarded up for at least a decade.”

Project officials plan to visit with the city of Springfield’s Department of Planning and Development to begin the approval process that will move onto Springfield City Council before the project can begin. Blansit estimated that process would conclude in May, provided the development’s plan is approved. The nonprofit seeks to rezone the property to a planned development from single-family housing.

“We would intend to be ready to break ground during the summer,” she said, noting the lack of plumbing will require several months of infrastructure work. “Our goal is to have it completed by the end of 2025.”


No comments on this story |
Please log in to add your comment
Editors' Pick
Business Spotlight: Finding the Need and Filling It

Good Samaritan celebrates 65 years.

Most Read
Update cookies preferences