Local home builder likes what he's seeing

News-DemocratDecember 16, 2013 

When Mike Rathgeb surveys the landscape around Edwardsville, he likes what he is seeing.

"There seems to be, generally speaking, more confidence in the economy," Rathgeb said. "But locally we're finding people from throughout the metro-east that are visiting us that they are interested in living in the Edwardsville community."

The residential developer says he has been seeing a recent increase in business. Rathgeb, who is the founder and president of Edwardsville-based Spencer Homes, has recently broken ground on Brookshire Hamlet at the Gerber Road and Goshen Road in Edwardsville. The 18-home development is targeted local senior citizens who are looking to relocate to community where the landscaping and maintenance in the neighborhood will be provided. The single-family homes will have two bedrooms with walk-in closets, two or two-and-a-half baths, full basements and an attached two-car garage.

The price for these home will start in the low to mid $300-range and are estimated to provide a $7 million impact to the local economy. Rathgeb anticipates the first homes to be completed by the spring.

For the first time since he became a city planner in Edwardsville, Scott Hanson said this and other new residential construction are coming back to town.

"I hate to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we have pretty steady stream of residential building permits signify family home over the past 12 to 18 months," Hanson said.

He pointed to new subdivisions that are being built in the Ebbets Field subdivision and a residential development known as Governor's Way.

"That will be 74, 75 new residential single-family lots," he said. "This is the first time in my tenure in the City of Edwardsville that we have had something of that size. It's probably too early to tell, but we're thrilled. I've been here for five years, and we've worked our way through the housing bubble issues during the entire time and never had platted more than a couple lots."

In Collinsville, Community Development Director Mitch Bair also reports plans for residential growth for the first time in a while. The city has approved plans for a 22-lot, single-family home subdivision off California Avenue. Bair said this property was initially platted for development in 2005, but the development group later foreclosed, as many others did when the sub-prime loans ushered in the economic recession in 2008. Now, Bair is optimistic that the city can sell those lots in the spring.

"I've been here five-and-a-half years and this is the first residential subdivision we have had since I've been here," Bair said. "This is probably the first one since that market crashed about eight or nine years ago."

The city is also planning on another residential development on the north side of town where $300,000 homes will be built.

"It seems like sales are strong and picking up as far residential development," Bair said. "We're definitely seeing some interest."

O'Fallon Zoning and Planning Director Ted Shekell said between 95 and 120 new homes starts have come to the city in each of the past five years. By the end of last month, 82 new homes had been planned.

"What we're seeing is some new home construction for sure," Shekell said. "When you get 100 homes like we've had, that's probably better than most communities in the metro area, except West St. Louis County and St. Charles County. We're not seeing any large volume increases what we had in the last four years. It's just pretty steady."

In Belleville, building commissioner Paul Bauman said despite a slow start, residential construction is outpacing last year's development numbers.

"There was a slowdown last spring and summer, but in the last month and a half to two months, in Green Mount Commons area, they have started and added to their subdivision and there has been a small addition at Maple Hill, where they're about six houses under construction," Bauman said.

Said Hanson, "I think the tea leaves suggest we're working through this. We have reached the point where new lots can be platted for development and conformable with this marketing plan."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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