by Sam Fosness for the Mitchell Daily Republic, March 12, 2020
As long as the project gets approved, Mitchell Technical Institute construction students will be a part of building eight homes in the Mitchell Area Development Corporation’s housing development, helping the students put their skills to the test.
Project leaders of the housing development that entails the construction of 90-plus homes on 20-plus acres of land on the corner of Foster Street and East Eighth Avenue announced they will be donating eight lots to MTI’s Architectural Design and Building Construction (ADBC) program on Thursday. The land where the Ridge View on Foster housing development is planned to be constructed was donated by Avera Queen of Peace hospital in early January.
“This donation will allow MTI’s ADBC program to build homes along the street near the Firesteel Heights neighborhood, where they have built several homes in the past,” said Mark Vaux, CEO of the Mitchell Area Development Corporation during Thursday’s press conference. “We know that MTI is an important supplier of future workers in our community, and as these homes take shape, these MTI students will be learning their trade to become highly skilled workers for our local construction industry.”
In past years, MTI construction students have built eight of the homes that are along Roland Lane in the Firesteel Heights neighborhood. During the school year, MTI construction students build one home per year, typically ranging around 1,600 to 1,900 square feet. The home that MTI construction students are in the process of building will mark the first house to be completed in the Ridge View on Foster development. In addition, the lots that MTI will building on are valued at roughly $250,000.
Jim Mahoney, MTI’s construction program director and instructor, said first-year ADBC students will build the foundation of the homes — including some interior and exterior work — that are planned to be located in the housing development. Second-year students will then complete the home construction on site after the house is transported from MTI’s campus to the Ridge View on Foster housing development.
“This is a great way for our students to get hands-on experience and see how the whole process of building a home works,” Mahoney said, noting MTI’s HVAC and electrical students will also help install the electricity and heating and cooling systems inside the homes. “I like how this crosses over to some of our other programs.”
Thursday’s announcement at MTI’s Nordby Trades Center comes after the Mitchell City Council approved the first reading of the housing development during the March 2 council meeting. The council will hold the second reading for the housing development during the 6 p.m. meeting on Monday at City Hall, where they will ultimately decide whether the housing project will be approved.
MTI president Mark Wilson said he’s excited about the opportunity for the MTI students who will be tasked with building a proportion of the homes in the proposed housing development.
“This has been a work in progress, and we have a good history in that area,” Wilson said. “This wouldn’t have happened without the donation from Avera, and we are very thankful for that.”
For Myles Brewster, a first-year MTI construction student, the donation of the lots is a chance for him to gain real-world home building experience.
“This will help me get a head start in the construction industry, and it’s a big opportunity for me and my classmates,” Brewster said.
“This project is now giving them a learning lab for the next several years to learn their trade and perfect their craft,” said Avera Queen of Peace Regional President and CEO Tom Clark. “Skilled crafts people are needed by the many building trades companies in our community, and MTI does an amazing job at training this future workforce.”
Clark pointed to the critical need for the city of Mitchell to add more affordable, attainable homes in order to fill the demand of worker shortages that several local companies have been experiencing.
While there was excitement abound Thursday among the project leaders and MTI students, the housing development has been met with opposition from many of the nearby residents. Throughout the public-meeting process around the project that leaders have held with nearby residents, it’s provided an opportunity for them to voice their concerns and make suggestions. Mike Bathke, a local builder and homeowner living along East Eighth Avenue in the Firesteel Heights neighborhood, pitched the idea of donating some of the lots to the MTI construction program and changing the widths of the lots along East Eighth Avenue from 60 feet to 80 feet.
The 80-foot lot widths for the homes along East Eighth Avenue is one suggestion made by the nearby residents that Vaux pointed to as a compromise the project leaders have made.
“We have made several concessions, as we understand and appreciate their concerns,” Vaux said of the nearby residents’ requests. “We’re trying to implement as many of their suggestions as we possibly can, and this will create the buffer zone they are asking for.”
According to Wilson, the 80-foot lot width change provided a major benefit for the construction students, as the home that the students build each year are intended to be placed on a similar sized lot. Wilson said the MTI construction program will continue building one house on campus per year, which will then be completed on the lots within the housing development. However, if there is a demand for the students to construct two homes per year to fill the eight lots donated from the development, Wilson said the program has the capacity to accommodate that.
“We’re fortunate to have this opportunity, and the students do a great job at building great homes,” Wilson said.