Tofte supervisors continue study of senior housing with tour of housing projects

Tofte Township supervisors Paul James and Jim King had positive things to say at the December 12, 2013 township board meeting about the factory and senior housing development they had toured earlier that week in Detroit Lakes and Collegeville.  They spend three days on the road and covered about 700 miles.

King said he was impressed with the modular homes built by Dynamic Homes in Detroit Lakes.  They were “more than your generally think of,” he said.

James said he always thought prefab construction would not be good, but upon touring the plant, he saw that Dynamic Homes’ construction methods exceeded the ones he used in his own home.  They represented “very, very good construction,” he said.  “Good quality materials, good insulation.”

The two supervisors also visited a senior housing development in Collegeville.  James said they were designed very efficiently, making small areas look big.  After seeing these units, he said, he thought they should plan 800-850-square-foot homes for Tofte’s senior housing development planned for the Birch Grove property. 

James said they are looking at constructing one large building that would look on the outside like individual homes like the ones they saw in Collegeville.  Those buildings had central boilers and interior hallways connecting to all the units, but that was not apparent from outside, he said.

“I went down there a little skeptical about prefab houses and came back thinking, gee, I’d have them build one of those homes for me,” James said.

James said they are trying to put together a project that is affordable and comfortable and that people would be pleased to live in. 

King said they met with Northland Foundation about possible funding for the project, and while they did not get a commitment, he thought they “opened some doors.”  He said they would be looking for grants to fill funding gaps.

On their trip, James and King met with a husband/wife housing development team.  They build houses for $70-110/square foot and carry their projects through the entire process, including both interior and exterior finishes. 

In order to be most efficient, the 10 units being considered would share a sewer system, heat source, and driveway.  Supervisor King said that in the country of Finland, driveways are built on top of mounds covering above-ground hot water pipes.  This keeps the driveways free of ice and snow.  He said if they did that in Tofte, they could call it “The Helsinki Project.”

They are trying to tie the housing in with programs and services at Birch Grove Community Center, Supervisor James said.  It would be great to have residents be able to access the community center easily without having to traverse over ice and snow, he said.

Skip Lamb said the Best Western hotel in Grand Marais is a Dynamic Home product.  He said one drawback would be that the building would be constructed at a factory rather than onsite by local workers.  Supervisor James said many parts of the project would need to be installed by local trades people.