‘The Preserve’ focuses on affordability in North Liberty

The first homes are going up at The Preserve, a major subdivision near Centennial Park in North Liberty. PHOTO ADAM MOORE


By Dave DeWitte
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The newest Watts Group subdivision springing up in North Liberty is probably most noteworthy for its location, but to developer Gary Watts there’s another distinction at least as important: affordability.

Duplexes and townhomes in The Preserve, a 70-acre mixed housing subdivision between Centennial Park and Kansas Avenue in North Liberty, are designed to provide the quality and features most homebuyers want, while hitting a price point that works for many first-time buyers.

The first three two-level townhome buildings now under construction will be priced between $200,000-$250,000. Twelve ranch-style duplex units to follow will be priced at $240,000-$300,000, and will be available next spring.

The company’s enormous success developing rental condos in the market has given it some insight into the high demand for homes that make it affordable for those renters to transition to ownership, according to CEO Gary Watts. Although many have not owned a home before, the renters are often well-paid young professionals and couples working at places like the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, or at businesses in Coralville’s Oakdale Research Park.

“What we’re excited about is obviously the price point from an affordability standpoint,” Mr. Watts said.

Beyond the need to hit a good price point, Mr. Watts said the company had seen the need for “one-level living.” Putting everything on one level is obviously important to many retirees who want to leave the stairs behind, he said, but it’s also important to many beginning families.

The development will stand out visually with detention ponds accented by lighted fountains that will be visible to thousands of passing motorists daily near the roundabout that connects Kansas Avenue and St. Andrew Drive, and at the southwest corner of the property.

Plans call for single-family lots at the west end of the subdivision adjoining Centennial Park. Because of the size and location of the lots, Mr. Watts said the area is expected to see larger single-family homes that could sell in the $500,000 range.

Watts Group saw the opportunity for the project after the city of North Liberty received a RISE Grant to extend Kansas Avenue past University of Iowa Community Credit Union’s headquarters area to Forevergreen Road in order to serve new businesses such as GEICO.

About 30 of the 70 acres have been developed so far, and the buildout of the subdivision is expected to take between eight and 10 years, depending on the economy.

“Our timing on this is really good with the Forevergreen Road interchange opening up,” said Adam Hahn, general manager of commercial construction for Watts Group. The interchange that opened in October is expected to not only speed commute times by taking peak-hour pressure off the nearby Penn Street interchange, but also to attract new service businesses to the area.

A new speakeasy-themed restaurant called BT Gin Eatery with a large outdoor seating area was recently submitted for site plan consideration to the city at the nearby corner of Forevergreen Road and Jordan Street.

Neighborhood service businesses are also expected to pop up in two new mixed-use buildings nearing completion by McComas-Lacina Construction at Kansas Avenue and Landon Road. CBJ