Scott Dreeding, his 23-month-old son William and wife Monica pose March 17 in front of the house in Eleanor Oaks that they hope to close on this week.
Photo by JULIANA A. TORRES
Largo housing construction specialist Mark Meyers takes down bows that adorned the house at 460 Fourth Ave. NE for its March 15 ribbon cutting. The house is the first of five to be built as part of a Largo redevelopment project.
LARGO – The newly constructed, three-bedroom, energy-efficient house at 460 Fourth Ave. NE is more than the culmination of a Largo redevelopment project, six years in the making.
It’s also the home where 23-month-old William Dreeding will grow up. His parents, Scott and Monica Dreeding, signed a contract for the home in November, before it was built.
“We’ve been photographing all the steps of it,” said Scott Dreeding, as he stood on the steps of the now completed home with his young family March 17.
The Dreedings’ journey to own their first home began at the Home Ownership for People Everywhere, or HOPE, Expo in June. But the history of what will soon be their very own house started in 2007, when the city of Largo negotiated the purchase of the land that eventually was renamed Eleanor Oaks.
“It was an old, really horrible mobile home park. The city felt like it was driving the neighborhood down,” said housing manager for Largo, Matthew Anderson, who has headed the project since its inception.
The city financed the purchase of the property through the nonprofit Largo Area Housing Development Corporation, using county grant funds. After the residents were compensated to move elsewhere, the five mobile homes, two cottages and one substandard house were demolished and the property re-divided into five lots in 2008.
“The idea was to convert something that was really horrible in the neighborhood to five really nice houses and sell them to people who needed to buy houses,” Anderson explained.
At the time, affordable housing was desperately needed, as only more costly homes and condos were being built. Part of the city’s affordable housing program provides down payment assistance for the new homeowners. The city holds a second mortgage on their behalf, up to $45,000, to be paid back when they sell the home.
But the project stalled as financing to construct the new homes ran out. Until recently, Eleanor Oaks was cleared but vacant land, waiting “until it made sense to build ownership housing,” explained county Housing Development Manager Frank Bowman.
However, the city was not deterred as the project made no progress over the next four years, Anderson said.
“We kept saying, ‘We got to find another way to make it happen,’” Anderson said.
Six months ago, county officials agreed to provide funding for the construction project through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, or SHIP, program.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Anderson said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
City, county and business officials celebrated the completion of the first house in Eleanor Oaks during a ceremony March 15. The home cost $133,256 to build and is being sold for $153,000, based on the appraisal of both the building and the lot. The city will use the profits to reimburse the county in part as well as reinvest in the project.
Mark Meyers, Largo housing construction specialist and in-house designer for the project, said the city spent a little extra to incorporate energy efficiencies without the extra expense of adhering to certified state green standards.
“Since we’re looking at building homes for affordable housing, my thought as always has been, if you build a house that’s energy efficient, they’re going to save money forever,” Meyers said.
Green features include a metal roof, Energy Start appliances, insulated windows that also can sustain major hurricanes, underground electrical service, high efficiency air conditioning and natural gas-fueled air and water heating, provided to the property by Clearwater Gas System. The walls of the home are designed with insulated concrete form technology, a more energy-efficient and structurally tough method that uses rebar and concrete poured between foam panels.
“Nothing can happen to it. It’s like a bunker because of all the steel in (the walls),” Meyers said.
The air and water heater of the home are located along an inside wall instead of an attic or garage where energy is lost. Further, the water heater is in the center of the home, with the farthest spout for hot water in the home only 25 feet away.
Additionally, the sidewalk and driveway are made of pervious concrete, designed to allow the absorption of water.
“We put some of the latest technologies in this house,” Meyers said.
In fact, in the years while the city waited to construct the homes, green technology has not only improved, but also became more affordable. If the city had built the homes in 2008 as planned, the buildings themselves would not be as high quality as they are today, Meyers said.
“Green has come a long way in the last two years,” Bowman commented.
Dreedings will gain more neighbors as the city builds four more houses on the Eleanor Oaks property by the end of the year. Officials hope to start construction on the two homes to either side of the Dreedings’ house in the next two weeks, Meyers said.
The houses should be occupied quickly.
“All of these projects have contracts on them already,” Meyers said.
The Dreedings, currently living in Clearwater, said they will be moving into their new home as soon as possible.
“You couldn’t ask for a better area,” Monica Dreeding said. “Because of the parks and all the amenities that Largo has to offer, it’s in the perfect location.”