It’s been a long, drawn out process slowly moving over several months, but the good news is, S. Windriver Drive will soon connect to W. Richards Street near Douglas Middle School, Douglas Administrator Jonathan Teichert confirmed Monday.
The city inked a deal back in September with Douglas Holding LLC’s Art Paterson to accept a donation of 19 acres, about 90 lots, in the Meadow Acres and Meadow Acres No. 2 subdivisions. The land is valued at $569,154.
Connecting S. Pearson Street and S. Windriver Driver to W. Richards was cited as a priority then, as is building much-needed residential housing in the community.
The city now has a developer to work with them on the project, Teichert said.
Tom Civin, owner of TLC Developments, LLC of Sheridan, confirmed his company is going to develop the city’s property, ultimately building residential housing units between S. Pearson Street and S. Windriver.
And, while COVID-19 has definitely slowed down the progression of the project, officials said, they’re happy to be in discussions with a land developer and well into getting the ball rolling on the project.
“The city has entered into an exclusive ‘Right to Negotiate’ with (TLC Developments, LLC) and we’re working out the terms of the development agreement at this time,” Teichert confirmed.
Teichert explained there were initially four companies who submitted proposals to the city to develop the land.
“The city interviewed three of them. TLC Developments, LLC was selected as the preferred submittal. We are negotiating the terms of the development agreement with them (now),” he said.
Teichert said a dollar amount on the development project has not been decided upon as of yet, as the parties are still in discussions.
For now, though, the enormous project is being broken down into stages, beginning with the S. Windriver connection to W. Richards.
The city is advertising for bids for the completion of the associated infrastructure in South Windriver, including paving and ultimately, the road’s connection with West Richards.
“South Windriver Drive is being advertised for bids at this time. The pre-bid meeting is scheduled for Thursday (July 9) and the bid opening for July 23,” Teichert said.
The city re-budgeted approximately $1.2 million to connect S. Windriver to W. Richards. Teichert said they’ll know the exact cost of the road connection project once they open the bids on July 23.
Once the S. Windriver connection is completed, he expects things will kick off with the development side of the project.
“We’re looking at a phased development with build-out up to five years out or as the housing market demands. The project will include the extension of infrastructure and the mixed construction of single family and multi-family housing,” he explained.
There’s no question Douglas is in need of more affordable family housing.
City officials contend working with a developer to add housing units on the property will ultimately help the community.
“Converse County local governments commissioned a housing study in 2019 which identified a substantial need for housing, both rental and owner occupied. While many factors influence the need for housing, employment opportunities represent the predominant demand generator. The type of employment, wage level and working conditions each influence the kind of housing that is needed and at what level of affordability,” Teichert said.
“The Converse County Oil & Gas Draft EIS forecast the need for approximately 530 permanent housing units. Additional demand will be present for a substantial number of temporary housing units. The housing study identified the need for 600 total units added by the year 2025. This project seeks to help address those housing needs,” he said.
The project will enable infill residential development in an effort to meet the housing demands identified in the 2019 study. It also coincides with the city council’s strategic plan goals to focus on development potentials, specifically Meadow Acres, as well as to work toward abundant, affordable housing and transportation connectivity between Yellowstone Highway and W. Richards Street.
Civin said Douglas has a serious need for housing.
“I think this is something I can do for this community. It’s a big deal. The city really wants to do something with the property and it’s going to be a relatively uncomplicated project for us.
“I’ve been developing for decades and decades. While things are up in the air now more than they were a few months back due to (COVID-19) everyone is on the same page. Yes, things are more uncertain now than when we first started talking about the development project, but it’s a good move to develop it,” Civin stated.
Civin said the property is platted for 90 residential lots and for the most part, he intends to keep it that way.
“We’ll probably stay within that range for residential units. I want to keep them affordable. I’ve heard over and over from the people I’ve talked to in Douglas housing is needed. I’ve been told, ‘We need housing for our college teachers, our hospital employees, our schoolteachers, our police officers and firefighters. It would make no sense for me to build something people can’t afford,” he said.
Once S. Windriver Drive is completed is about the time Civin will start work on the property development, he said.
“We will probably start on that side, as quickly as we can get it coordinated,. I’m working on designing it right now. It’s premature to give any definite unit counts, costs or designs, but we’re earnestly working on it. I went out there (to the property) and brought a contractor with me. We looked around and were both thinking, ‘This is going to be easy. It’s a piece of ground in the middle of town and it needs houses on it – and we’re the ones to do it. It may take a little bit longer than what we originally thought, but it is going to happen,” he enthused.
Civin said he examined the property in detail, including detailed flood maps and found nothing but good.
“It make sense for the community, the city, everyone involved. It’s sitting there, empty. It’s best suited for sprouting some houses on it, so let’s do that. It’s about time something gets done,” he said.