Construction workers are exempt from work restrictions because many work alone or in outdoor, isolated spaces. And developments like the 2,100 home Evans Farm project in Delaware County say work continues to surge. The Building Industry Association of Ohio says work will keep going, as long as materials from overseas continue to arrive.
DELAWARE — Drawn by nearby relatives and a relaxed lifestyle, Jim Kaschalk moved from Cincinnati into his 2,100-square-foot home in the Evans Farm development this month.
A retired government worker, Kaschalk, 64, said he was sold on the whole concept of front-porch living and being close enough to walk to a restaurant, market or businesses. Plans for what types of shops and businesses have not yet been announced.
More than 140 homes are built or under construction in the first phase of the development in Delaware County’s Orange Township. And just 12 of them are unsold or not in contract.
So sought-after is the area for its quality Olentangy public schools and New Urbanism design that few envision anything slowing the earth movers and crews building out the 2,100-home complex. Starting prices are about $350,000.
But now that the coronovirus pandemic is stalling commerce elsewhere, how it affects progress in one of Ohio’s fastest-growing counties, and how developers respond, is being closely observed.
Over the weekend, “there was still traffic driving through and looking at empty lots,” said Tony Eyerman, a partner in Evans Farm Land Development Co. “The one thing we’re preaching is that the community and the neighborhoods are the backbone of our society.”
Eyerman envisions families seated on wrap-around porches — a hallmark of home design here — getting to know each other and helping each other out.
Centralized shops, offices and markets along with athletic fields and small parks would be placed along tree-lined neighborhood streets.
“We’re not trying to build a fake community here,” he said.
While some experts predict that recession is inevitable due to the pandemic, Eyerman is proceeding with optimism.
“We had always factored in that the economy was going to turn down. This here is an incredibly impactful thing,” he said of mass quarantines, work restrictions and social isolation. “But from everything we’re hearing, it’s going to last through June or August. We’re staying cautiously optimistic.”
As Phase I of the project wraps up, Eyerman said he has little doubt that construction and sales will continue.
“Right now, we are simply waiting for the asphalt plants to re-open (in the warm weather) and start our next section.” Trees have been leveled and streets marked out. However, he has heard that some builders have halted new construction.
Unless construction supplies dry up or workers become ill, there’s little reason to stop the progress, said Jon Melchi, executive director of the Building Industry of Central Ohio.
About 30% of building materials come from overseas, Melchi said. “As of today, we have not heard of any material slowdown. We have not seen anything that will affect us long term.”
However, there has been “general apprehensiveness” from banks when deciding whether to lend to small developers.
Ohio’s closing of public businesses to contain virus spread has not touched construction, mainly because workers don’t have close contact and are outdoors, Eyerman said.
Melchi said pent-up demand for homes, especially in growing areas like Delaware County, is a powerful driver, even as other parts of the economy wind down.
“Most people think we will bounce back,” said Melchi. “We’re going to continue to have a need for places for people to live.”
As saws buzzed and hammers sounded, Eric Kuebler recently walked his dog in the neighborhood and marveled at the work.
“In the past 2-3 weeks this place has erupted in construction. It’s coming to life.”
Chris Brengartner, walking her twin Shih Tsu-Maltese mixes, Buster and Lilly, moved into her home along Evans Farm Drive six months ago.
“We always say, ’even it it’s one-tenth of what it could be, it’s still going to be incredible … it’s pretty darn cool.”