About three years ago, Russell and Jane Groves began envisioning a project that could benefit their adopted hometown of Hillsboro.
The project—a new affordable housing option for beginning families as well as retirees looking to move to town.
It’s taken time for that vision to take root, but the Groves Subdivision is beginning to sprout along Third Street on the north edge of the town’s residential area.
The initial spec house is nearly complete and available for sale.
“We’ve lived here for 14 years,” Russell Groves said. “I’ve been to a lot of events here, and everywhere I go I’ve heard the same story—we need affordable housing.
“Those two words don’t really belong in the same phrase, but we do need housing,” he said with a smile.
The Groves’ interest grew following a conversation with Jules Glanzer, president of Tabor College, at a new-hire event a couple of years ago.
“Jules Glanzer said the sad thing is that probably 25 percent of the people we’re hiring here are going to end up being replaced again because we (Hillsboro) don’t have housing to keep them.
Said Groves: “That was all festering around in my investing brain, and I never stopped looking. I drove by this (acreage) one day and saw the for-sale sign outside. I called Jane and said, ‘You know that subdivision we’ve talked about? Let’s get in the car and go look at it.”
Groves was encouraged to look into the project by Delores Dalke, Hillsboro mayor at the time, as well as longtime real estate broker.
Groves found out the 60 acres of farm ground was for sale through a sheriff auction. Groves didn’t win the bid, but that didn’t end the dream.
“After the auction, I walked up to (the buyer), stuck my hand out and said, ‘This is who I am and this is what I want to do.’”
The buyer said he was mostly interested in the land because he was part of the Grace Community Church, which was building a new meetinghouse adjacent to the sale property and was hoping to control the adjoining acreage next to the church.
“He and I started talking,” Groves said. “I gave him some ideas of what (Jane and I) been talking about. We shared some vision, and I bought the land from him a few months later. He made a little money on it, and I still got it for a reasonable price.”
With land in hand, Groves—with the help of EBH Associates—began the long legal process of developing a plat and ultimately getting it approved by the city.
“It has to happen,” Groves said. “You have to do it the right way, because you just half to. To subdivide a piece of ground impacts an entire community infrastructure—like sewer, storm drainage—everybody had to sign off on it.
“It takes a lot of time, everybody had to do their due diligence when it crossed their desk, which is why it’s taken three years to get to this point.”
The Groves have been approved for 16 lots in the initial stage of their 10-acre development. The entire 30 acres could someday accommodate up to 60 homes.
The spec house nearing completion is positioned on an 85-foot-by-150-foot lot, which is almost a third of an acre.
“I did that because I don’t like houses packed closely together, and in a town this size there’s no reason for that,” Groves said. “People come to Hillsboro because they want a little elbow room. I started a house on a pretty good-sized lot because I think it’s going to be a good selling point.”
The basic layout of the spec house includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a compact kitchen with an open living room and a two-car garage.
“This is what I will show people,” he said. “If they want this house, that’s wonderful and I’ll sell it to them. Or we can duplicate it with a basement.”
Groves said he isn’t seeking a cookie-cutter development.
“I am not going to be picky about what goes in here as long as it meets code,” he said. “But this is Hillsboro, and I want people to be able to express what they want in a house that they build out here—considering the fact that this is a new neighborhood.”
Groves said his goal was to build a patio-style house that sell for under $150,000.
“We are listing this for $149,950,” Groves said. “For a brand new 1,300 square feet, three-bed, two-bath house on a third of an acre lot, I think it’s a bargain.”
The typical house will not have a basement, but each house will be equipped with a storm shelter.
“Home Depot sells a pre-fab welded steel, FEMA-rated shelter,” Groves said. “It’s a 4-foot diameter cylinder and it bolts to the floor. It’s going to go right outside this door in the garage.
“If a tornado is bearing own on you, you can get a whole lot of people into a 4-foot cylinder. It’s the best compromise I could find.”
Groves envisions these smaller, one-level house appealing to people who are just starting a family, as well as retirees who want to be near Tabor College and its many activities without having to negotiate steps as they age.
“If someone wants to build a high-end house in here, absolutely I’ll welcome that,” Groves added. “But what we don’t have in this community is affordable housing for people who want to move here, who want to start a family.”
“Part of starting a family is you need enough expansion space so the kids can play in the yard,” Groves said. “We’re giving them that with 30-acre lots.
“I want to see something that will bring new families, but also retirees. This is what is called a patio home. It is essentially one level—there’s no steps to navigate.
Groves said the spec house is already listed with a real estate agency.
“If you want to start a house here, or if you want to come to Hillsboro for the quality of life, and have a house that you can navigate easily—it’s right here.”