Maple City Homes’ Robb Nelson said there is no place he and his partners would rather be than here in Chatham-Kent, building homes on a large-scale basis.
“Three years ago, we saw what was going on elsewhere and all these other communities were growing,” he said. “Here, there was a huge demand, but no large-scale builder. No one wanted to take the risk to organize it.”
Enter Nelson and wife Kim of FamilyLending, Trevor Mailloux of TMC Construction, and veteran homebuilder Gilles Michaud. Together they formed Maple City Homes (MCH), and have since added Darryl Clarke of Clarke Construction to the mix.
“We came up with a new business model to allow us to build 30-40 homes at a time,” Nelson said of MCH’s plans three years ago. “When everyone saw that it worked, we went and got an even bigger piece of land.”
MCH recently started its mega build project The Meadows, a 380-home neighbourhood in southwest Chatham, near Bloomfield Road and Park Avenue. Timeline there is five years or less.
But why do this in Chatham-Kent? Nelson said it was a no brainer on all levels.
“This was definitely low-hanging fruit, a market nobody believed in, but we did. It was the best spot,” he said. “The land costs average about $1,500 per foot on frontage. Other communities in similar-sized markets have frontages at $2,500 per foot or more.”
Having no other large-scale building competitor to compete against added to the interest in C-K.
So too is the fact all MCH principals are Chatham-Kent residents.
“We’re all local. It bodes well when selling in a small market,” Nelson admitted.
He said the burgeoning local economy also has them convinced this is the right place to put their plans into action.
“The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s ever been. All the good industrial buildings are filled. But there is lots of business (municipal) economic development hasn’t been able to satisfy because of a lack of housing,” Nelson said. “That needed to change.”
Nelson said MCH is building low maintenance, high efficiency homes, which appeal to older and younger people alike.
“They’re time conscious,” Nelson said of young adults today.
Spending time tending to a large yard may have appealed to their parents, but not to them.
And providing such options for today’s young adults could result in an influx of youth to the municipality.
“I’ve watched some of my kids move away,” Nelson said. “The city’s addressed a lot of what is missing to satisfy young adults. But it all starts with housing and with unique housing. We’ve got to give the younger generation what they want.”