LeClaire is experiencing a single-family housing boom. During the month of July, 101 building permits were issued for LeClaire, compared with nine for Davenport, 19 for Bettendorf and 10 for the rest of Scott County.
What makes the LeClaire boom so unusual is that while several builders are working in the city, the July numbers belong almost solely to a single developer: Brad Lohaus of Iowa City, a University of Iowa basketball great during the 1980s who also played for 11 years in the National Basketball Association.
Although his 100-permit purchase was a one-time occurrence, it was a jaw-dropper.
And it has big implications for the Pleasant Valley School District, whose board will be discussing possible expansion projects for as early as next summer because of the additional students those homes will bring, Superintendent James Spelhaug said.
The board will consider an expansion of at least one of its elementary schools — either Cody or Bridgeview — or possibly the junior high, with other considerations in the near future, he said.
Called The Links at Pebble Creek, Lohaus' development encompasses about 30 acres south of Pleasant Valley Junior High School and east of 35th Street. The construction is hard to miss if you're traveling along Interstate 80.
The Links is the last major piece of Pebble Creek North, which, together with Pebble Creek South, comprise the overall Pebble Creek development plan that was first platted in 2003 by the Dial Corp. and developer Brian Speer, LeClaire City Administrator Ed Choate said.
All Pebble Creek developments are within a tax increment financing district. That means taxes collected on the increased value of the developed properties goes to developers to pay for the construction of streets, sidewalks, and sewer and water systems.
Those payments have totaled $2.157 million since the first ones were made June 1, 2007, Choate said.
But user fees from the construction of these homes has a "tremendous amount of impact" on the city budget and helps keep down costs, Choate said.
"These kinds of fees, one-time and continuing, make a considerable difference to the city's budget and bottom line.
"And as the homes bring in more people, that's more people for our businesses and or civic organizations," he said.
The housing also encourages commercial development, he said, adding, "Rooftops are very important."
About a dozen Lohaus homes are under construction now, and depending upon weather and how the homes sell, all 118 that are planned could be built by next year at this time, he said while visiting the site earlier this month.
"Basically, we intend to try to start 10 homes every week," said Chuck Henson, a consultant with Evercore Holdings LLC, the Texas-based company serving as the general contractor for Lohaus.
At this point, they're all spec homes (meaning built on speculation with features that a developer thinks will appeal to would-be buyers), with most expected to sell between $320,000 and $380,000. They will range in size from 1,800 to 2,500 square feet and be built according to 14 different designs, Lohaus said.
Mel Foster Co. will do the marketing, and agent Pete Voss could not be more excited.
"There is a demand (for homes) in this price range," he said, adding that people wanting such homes are an "under-serviced" market.
And "there are amenities they're not used to seeing in this price range: tile floors, granite, three-car garages. They're going to be really surprised."
Henson further explained that prospective buyers are "just regular folks, two-income families with a high level of younger couples with children who are interested in having their children go to the Pleasant Valley School District."
They will include people transferring in with major corporations such as Deere & Co. and those "trading up" in terms of home ownership.
Aditionally, "a number of the buyers will be early empty-nesters who would like to come to a golfing community," Henson said.
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Lohaus said he has been in the development business for about four years, with commercial projects in Indianapolis as well as residential work in Sarasota, Fla., and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
He became involved in LeClaire — his first venture in Iowa — through a friend who convinced him what a great opportunity the Scott County community presents.
His general contractor is hiring as many Quad-City area subcontractors as possible.
Other development in LeClaire, its future
Although Pebble Creek is the hottest development site in LeClaire at the moment, it isn't the only one.
Of the 163 single-family building permits issued since January, 26 were for low- to moderate-income single-family homes in a subdivision called Cody's Legacy and perhaps a half-dozen in a subdivision called Cody's Hunt, Choate said.
And he expects the building to continue. Just to the east of the current boom site, for example, lie 200 acres still zoned for agriculture.
While another subdivision in LeClaire called The Bluffs has been in the headlines recently because of crumbling streets and sidewalks, Choate said such problems will not occur in Pebble Creek or any other of the areas being developed now, including the six lots remaining in The Bluffs. That is because different specifications have been put in place for infrastructure drainage and for inspections, he said.
"It's totally different," he added.
Overall this year, from January to the present, 163 building permits were issued for LeClaire, 121 for Bettendorf (with four pending), 73 for Davenport and 198 for all other cities and townships in Scott County.
The July permits for LeClaire alone generated $130,836 in fees, or 107 percent of what Tim Huey, Scott County's planning and development director, projected to collect for the entire county for all of the year. In addition to LeClaire, the county collects for 13 townships and six other cities.
"It's off the charts," Huey said.