FREEPORT — Construction on homes that can be controlled with a phone or tablet could begin by the end of this month, marking the first major housing development in the city for nearly a decade and bringing almost 90 seasonal construction jobs to the area this summer.
Groundbreaking on the homes is contingent upon the Illinois Department of Commerce approving a submitted request to expand a preexisting 10 1/2-square-mile enterprise zone to include 24 vacant lots for the homes in the Rose Meadows and Countryside Estates subdivisions. The department of commerce has 90 days from the submission date to a decision; it was submitted April 1. The plots are located in the first and second wards.
The application received its required signatures from taxing bodies within the enterprise zone including the city, Park Board, Highland Community College Board, library trustees and Stephenson, Jo Daviess and Carroll counties. The plots are located in Freeport’s first and second wards.
The qualifications for approval include showing the project creates capital investments, has a positive impact and creates jobs, said Dave Young, executive director for the Northwest Illinois Development Agency, adding that the application met all those requirements.
“It creates a stimulus for the housing market,” Young said. “It provides a new product that’ll be appealing to millennials; hopefully it’ll attract more millennials to the community. Over time, it will generate new property tax revenues.”
Five homes are expected to be completed in the first year, Young said, generating 88 seasonal construction jobs to Freeport. Several lots along Shimer Drive in Rose Meadows have already been identified for future spec homes, homes that a builder puts up for which there is not yet a buyer. Ambassador Homes, LLC in Rockford is building the homes. Ambassador Homes officials did not return calls seeking comment.
“I’m excited about it,” Mayor Jodi Miller said. “I think spurring that economic development in our neighborhoods is a great thing.”
Not only will the homes be the first to be built in Freeport since 2008 — except for one Habitat for Humanity home built near a school — but they would also be the first smart homes built in the community. Homeowners can use their phones and tablets to control their locks, lights, garage doors and temperatures even if they’re away. As an incentive, buyers of the new homes will qualify for a three-year tax abatement, said Anne Sadler, managing broker/owner of Choice Realty in Freeport. Ambassador Homes will also get a sales tax break on building materials during construction, Sadler said.
“Besides the technological appeal (of smart homes) to a lot of people, it also makes it more energy efficient,” Sadler said. “You can turn heat up and down, the air conditioning up and down. It really saves energy by monitoring those while away from home.”
Ald. Peter McClanathan, 2nd Ward, said new homes, smart homes at that, will be a good thing for the area.
“We’ve been dealing with a lack of new houses for quite a number of years,” he said. “We’re pretty active in demolition and rehabilitation but not much on the other end. These are some areas that are already platted and it’s a good idea if it helps benefit the community.”
Adam Poulisse: 815-987-1344; email@example.com; @adampoulisse