August 25, 2022
This paid coin is sponsored by Sioux Metro Growth Alliance.
During his first two years as administrator of the town of Lennox, Nathan Vander Plaats could count on the number of new houses built in the town.
And it wasn’t that long – he reprized the role in 2019.
Over the past year, however, the story has completely changed.
Over 50 new building permits have been issued and dozens of homes are in various stages of construction.
“It’s crazy,” said Sharese Ihnen, a real estate agent who is also chairman of the board of the Lennox Area Development Corporation. “It has always been difficult to find homes for people, but the development of new housing is really taking off. I was even surprised. I don’t know if I’ve stopped quantifying it, but when you write it down, it’s amazing.
Most of the new homes are clustered at the north end of the community in Nielson Construction’s Countryside Acres development, which also includes homes from other builders. There are also custom-built homes on other lots in Lennox, with prices starting in the low $300,000s and reaching over $700,000.
“Countryside Acres’ overall plan is 150 homes plus some multifamily,” Ihnen said. “Homes typically sell for over $500,000, and there’s a spec home that goes up between $700,000 and $800,000. If Lennox has reached the point where we’re selling homes for $700,000, I’m glad because it’s good for everyone.
The subdivision was created through a public-private partnership.
“Working closely with the Lennox Area Development Corporation to find a developer was essential – in fact, it was my first encounter when I started working here,” said Vander Plaats.
“What really made this possible was the willingness of the city to do this and the willingness of Lincoln County to take responsibility for a TIF district for us. Small towns like Lennox don’t have the debt capacity to run such a large TIF district, so we really need good partners like Lincoln County to help us with this end of the deal.
The new homes are occupied by a mix of current Lennox residents looking for something new and newcomers to the community.
“There is no real identifiable trend that I have seen yet,” said Vander Plaats. “That being said, they all talk about the importance of living in a small town with amenities that they would use. I will always believe that the availability of work in Sioux Falls is a huge draw to the area – many families see these jobs available but want to stay in a small, tight-knit community. They will find it here.
“In the past, coming to Lennox to work in Sioux Falls was something people didn’t always like, but now driving 20 minutes from Lennox to Sioux Falls isn’t a big deal,” she said. . “When you drive around the new neighborhoods you notice young families, but I also know some who are retired and live there.”
With a population of over 2,400, Lennox is also attracting more business attention. A Mexican restaurant is securing a lease for the town’s former community center, and the hope is that more dining options will follow.
The greatest need, however, is for more industrial land. This is where a relationship with Sioux Metro Growth Alliance has been particularly helpful. Economic Development Specialist Ryan Solberg is working with Lennox to help the city achieve its goals.
“When I arrived, I thought it would be about convincing businesses that an investment in the community is worthwhile and that it is a place where they can succeed and grow. Instead, it was about having the space available to meet their needs with ready-made sites that could meet the demand,” Solberg said.
“We’ve worked with companies that really like Lennox because of the workforce and the location, and we’ve tried to figure out how to find the space that meets their needs.”
Existing industrial space in the city is considered, including large employers such as Sioux Steel and Wilson Trailer.
“We have conversations about where our next industrial park might be, how we afford to do it, how we attract developers and what interest there is from companies,” Ihnen said.
“That’s where Ryan really helped ease my load as president of the Development Society because we’re all volunteers and he can meet and follow up and work out the details of that. . So he and Sioux Metro Growth Alliance help us plan, move forward, seek grants and other funding. Without them, I don’t know if any of us would know what to do.
The city also continues to invest in improvements and is in the first year of an eight-year capital improvement plan.
“And the progress is obvious to anyone visiting the city,” Vander Plaats said, pointing to the rebuilding of South Main Avenue near the high school.
Boynton Avenue, one of the busiest roads, will again this year benefit from major roadway and utility upgrades, as well as an extension of the community recreation pathway.
Next year, with the help of a $5.6 million state grant, a $10.2 million central basin sewer project will be completed in the central and northern part of the town.
The community is also looking at ways to encourage repairs to older homes to support those looking for more entry-level options, currently reimbursing 25% of exterior upgrades such as siding, shingles, doors and windows. on eligible properties.
“We received a good number of applications,” Solberg said. “The other thing is finding more affordable spaces for small businesses. We’ve had people interested in starting a cafe or other small business, but finding an affordable space has been difficult, so often they do business away from home before investing in a facility.
The community is also focused on downtown beautification efforts with new planters and a potential facade improvement program, while trying to figure out where its next big housing development should be located.
“When I came on board, I was told that the first phase of Countryside’s development would take five to 10 years to fully complete. Now they are already planning phase two, so the response has been tremendous,” said Solberg “It seems like every time I go to Lennox three or four more building permits have been taken away or basements have been poured in. I feel like there’s something new that pops up every time I drive by.