In recent years, housing developments boomed throughout Kokomo, but one couple believes the market for apartments priced for working-class families still needs to be bolstered. They intend to do just that.
DJ and Stephanie Butcher are targeting an abandoned warehouse for such a development. The couple’s first dive into the local development scene entails reconstituting the warehouse, located at 120 W. Monroe St., into eight affordable worker-housing apartment units.
“We’re hoping to bring affordable worker housing to Kokomo, something that is close to downtown, something easy to commute to and from the factories in the area, and something that is just accessible for everybody, which is also a nice feature of it being right on the trail. It’s close to local amenities and close to the local shops and bars,” said Stephanie.
The first step of launching the project will take place before the Kokomo Howard Plan Commission this week. There, a change in zone classification for the property, from moderate-intensity industrial/light manufacturing to low-density multifamily residential, is being requested. After that, the aim is to begin construction before the end of the year.
As to what the building used to be, the Butchers aren’t quite certain. A scale they discovered within it and its proximity to the railroad tracks led them to believe it may have been used in some capacity by trains, but beyond that, they’re unsure.
But what the couple does know is that the vacant warehouse is ripe for development, given its sparse interior that, at the moment, is mostly constituted by a single wide-open space.
“We like it to be vacant like that because we can let our creativity go to town,” said Stephanie. “Sometimes when there’s already existing structures, sometimes you need to wonder what’s in the walls and what needs to be moved to give us the open layout we want, so having a blank canvas is great for us.”
While the Butchers intend to add their own personal flair to the property, what will set it apart will be the cost of rent. Right now, only one other public project in Kokomo has been similar to the plan for 120 W. Monroe St. That is the redevelopment of the old Business College that’s currently underway by developer Scott Pitcher on the corner of North Main and East Taylor streets, which Pitcher’s Fortune Companies also redeveloped into affordable worker-rate housing.
“We’re run-of-the-mill people, so to be honest, this is the sort of home we’d be looking for,” said Stephanie. “It’s something we could raise a family in, be affordable, and be close to everything.”
DJ said the goal is to build four of the apartments as single-bedroom units, with the remaining four slated to become two-bedroom units. The average cost for rent would be $700.
“We’re hopefully going to make this unique compared to everything else,” said DJ. “We’ll see what happens in the end, but that’s our goal. We’re trying to bring something unlike anything else there is.”
The couple aims to complete the development by mid-summer next year.