August 08, 2012 - Much like the mythical phoenix rising from its ashes to be reborn anew, so a new residential development will rise from the ashes of an old Oxford home that was purposely burned to the ground Saturday.
Once this house fire really got rolling, the destruction was amazing as the flames devoured everything like a ravenous beast. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
The Oxford Fire Department torched the home, located at the corner of Pathfinder Trail and W. Drahner Rd. as part of a training exercise designed to sharpen veterans' skills and give newbies some hands-on experience.
With the house gone, the 1.5-acre parcel it sat on is ready for the next phase – construction of four duplexes.
The duplexes, called Pathfinder Meadows, will be built by partners Alan King and Todd Garris, both of whom are Oxford Township residents living in the Lakes of Indianwood subdivision.
Each of the eight units will be 1,750 square feet in size and consist of two floors and a basement. The main floor will contain the living and dining rooms, kitchen and half-bathroom, while the upper floor will house three bedrooms. The master bedroom will have its own full bathroom, while the other two bedrooms will share another full bathroom.
"These are little houses we're building out there," said King, who owns ASA Construction and has been in the building industry for about 30 years.
King and Garris, who purchased the foreclosed property from Oxford Bank, plan to rent the units for about $1,800 to $2,000 per month. "There's a major shortage of rental properties in northern Oakland County," said Garris, a 1990 Lake Orion High School graduate. "You've got apartments around here . . . but they're pretty old."
Garris explained this area is "starting to draw in a lot of professionals that are driven by the manufacturing industry and other industries."
These professionals have "expectations that are a little bit higher on the quality" than much of what's available to rent.
"Basically, there's no middle market here whatsoever for a reasonably-priced, but still higher-end type of product," said Garris, who owns Walltek Southeast LLC., a company he started in late 1993. It's headquartered in Tampa, Florida.
Walltek builds multifamily housing all over the country for the U.S. military. "The scope of work that we do is the land-balancing (and demolition) and all the structural concrete associated with the housing," Garris noted.
King agreed about the need for more rental properties in this area.
"Rental properties are really big everywhere right now," he said. "There's actually a shortage of rental properties because of what's going on with the housing industry – everybody losing houses and not being able to get financing right now because of the mess we've created over the years."
"People have to live somewhere until their credit gets fixed and the housing market loosens up a little bit," King continued. "It's very hard to get loans right now. A lot of people don't have (enough money) for 20 percent down. It's not like the olden days where you could get a loan without putting anything down. Now, the banks are requiring 20 percent like they should."
In addition to their hopes of profiting from this business venture, Garris and King decided to buy and develop this land because the road it's on, Pathfinder Trail, is the entrance to their subdivision.
"We now can control the quality of the product (and) the type of renters that are at that corner," Garris said.
King and Garris are anxious to get the duplexes built as quickly as possible.
"We're hoping to have basements (constructed) in two to three weeks," King said.
As far as having the whole development done, King said, "We're shooting for within a year. "I don't see a problem getting done within a year."
Garris' assessment was essentially the same. "I think by the end of August, we'll have all our basements in and the major underground infrastructure in place, then we can go vertical," he said. "It will probably be a six-to-eight month turnout. It will be six months when we have one (duplex) ready to go – two units ready to be rented."
Garris noted he was pleased to see the fire department put the old house to good use. His father, Bud Garris, is a retired fire captain who spent about 20 years with the Orion Fire Department.
"I grew up watching them train in these houses, so it's really neat to be on this side of the fence – being able to contribute to something so awesome that I got to witness as a child," Garris said.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.