KEARNEY — There’s a low rumble of heavy machinery as Allen Levesque and his family take in the late afternoon sunshine from the patio of their town home in southwest Kearney.
“It’s amazing how fast things can happen around here,” said Levesque, who, as a native of Miami, knows about growth.
“My wife, Emily, is from Orleans, so she doesn’t like it when I honk my horn in traffic,” Levesque said. “If the guy in front of me is going 25 mph in a 35-mph zone I’m going to honk. In Miami everyone is in a hurry.”
Levesque has gotten used to the sound of trenchers and compaction machinery that’s laying sewer and water mains nearby. The utilities soon will be paved over as Eighth Avenue presses south, making room for more units in the Fox Creek Town Homes development.
The rapidly growing neighborhood is the creation of Kearney developer Tim Norwood and his son, T.J. They launched the project four years ago to fill a niche in the rental market for pet owners and intend to build 125 town homes.
Currently the Norwoods are at 63 units and counting.
Town home occupants rent their units for $1,150 per month. They get a large kitchen with a door to the attached garage, an island and a living room, plus there is a washer and dryer, two bathrooms and two bedrooms, with the master having a walk-in closet.
What is the town homes’ top selling point?
The Norwoods’ town home rentals come with a 12-foot by 12-foot mulched area where pets can do their business, plus the main traffic zones inside have durable luxury vinyl plank flooring that’s designed for easy replacement if it’s scuffed. The door to the concrete patio also is pet-friendly. Blinds are enclosed inside the twin panes of glass so they’re protected from scratching paws.
“We paid a one-time pet fee, so this isn’t like an apartment where there might be a pet fee every month,” Levesque said.
As a military veteran with a service dog, he’s pleased with the town home. He said there’s enough space for his family: wife, Emily, and the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Riley. The couple soon will have a second child who will sleep in a bassinet in the parents’ bedroom.
Other Fox Creek tenants — Eran Harrison and Tiffany Wood — like almost everything about their town home: modern appliances, washer and dryer, dishwasher, garage, two bedrooms and the rent.
They said that finding new construction that’s spacious, has a pleasant view, and is pet-friendly for $1,150 per month made the Fox Creek town home a “done deal.”
Harrison and Wood have two dogs. Beauford is a great dane-bull mastiff cross, and Walee is a west highland terrier.
“They just charge a pet deposit, not a deposit plus pet rent like most other places,” Harrison said. “We looked at other places, but we didn’t find anything that’s pet friendly and at the price we wanted.”
He said the patio accommodates his grilling and there’s a view of harvested cornfields and the Gottschalk Tower at Yanney Heritage Park.
Fox Creek tenants pay for electricity, and the landlord covers garbage, water and sewer.
Tim and T.J. Norwood said their goal with Fox Creek is to satisfy a niche in Kearney’s rental market. Based on what they learned from other NP Realty properties, they determined there is a demand for pet-friendly rentals, and that tenants appreciate having some of the amenities they would have if they owned a home. That would include a single-level floor plan, a patio, small fenced area, green space in front and back, and an entry to the living quarters from the garage.
“We think the Fox Creek development works well for Kearney and the community down there. The demand actually is greater than we anticipated,” Tim Norwood said.
Construction on the first Fox Creek town homes began in 2016 in an area of southwest Kearney bordered on the north by Eighth Street, on the south by Fourth Street and on the east and west by Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue. Kenwood Elementary School serves the neighborhood, which is within walking distance of Yanney Park to the west. Kearney’s main north-south artery, Second Avenue, is about one-half mile east.
Fox Creek Town Homes encompass 1,049 square feet and employ an identical floor plan. T.J. Norwood, who focuses on construction, said that using the same plans affords a variety of advantages. Contractors easily learn to build the units, which means they can go up more quickly, and T.J. can focus on other projects the company is pursuing.
Containing construction costs opens the door to incorporate better construction and finishing materials, such as plush bedroom carpet, the pet-friendly patio door, and the washer and dryer and dishwasher. The walk-in closet in the bedroom and larger master bath also are welcome upgrades.
“We build them no different than we build our houses — the insulation, materials, the walls between units,” T.J. said. He said he uses quality materials and appliances so NP Realty won’t have to replace and repair components in the future.
The pace of construction is determined by occupancy. The Norwoods build more town homes when all the completed units are occupied.
Tim Norwood said 63 units have been completed since 2016 and that 20 currently are being built. He anticipates 42 units will be built in 2021.
“In the world of rental property, that is not a very fast pace. We’re fairly conservative,” he said. “We don’t want to overbuild the market.”
NP Realty has a number of developments underway.
T.J. is building duplexes in northeast Kearney’s Eastbrooke Subdivision, single-family homes on a cul-de-sac close to the Kearney Family YMCA in north Kearney, and a single-family development south of the Brookdale Kearney Northridge retirement community in northwest Kearney. The company also is preparing to launch the first phase — 29 lots — of its 159-house Arbor View Subdivision in northeast Kearney.
The Norwoods said Fox Creek has been rewarding because it’s provided Kearney with an alternative form of housing. Although the majority of new-home construction is single-family dwellings, there’s demand for variety among people shopping for a place to stay, according to a 2017 Kearney housing study.
Two of the study’s major topics were affordability and variety.
Tim Norwood said many new residents expect more variety in Kearney’s housing market, but often must choose from among single-family houses.
The Norwoods said Fox Creek has shown there’s a demand for variety.
That was welcome news, T.J. said. “What surprised us is that we have very few kids, but we have a lot of retirees. There are no stairs.”