NeighborWorks Home Solutions was honored by the Iowa Finance Authority recently for its development of the Walnut Grove Subdivision.
The nonprofit organization oversaw the construction of 14 single-family dwellings on the former site of Walnut Grove Elementary School at 2920 Ave. J. The work was accomplished with the help of Iowa Western Community College construction technology students — including about a half-dozen Council Bluffs high school students studying construction technology at Iowa Western — and several private contractors.
“The development of the Walnut Grove Subdivision was the result of a private-public partnership that utilized collaborations with the City of Council Bluffs, local and regional foundations, lending institutions and educational organizations to transform a blighted block into a vibrant neighborhood that provided employment, pride in home ownership and increased tax base,” said David Hazlewood, chief operating officer of NeighborWorks Home Solutions, who was chairman of Iowa Western’s construction technology program when the project started. “It takes a community to finish these projects, not just NeighborWorks.”
Walnut Grove Elementary was built in 1926 and received additions in 1951 and 1966, with a remodel in 1991. It closed at the end of the 2013-14 school year after a study found it was below district standards and would cost an estimated $12 million to $15 million to repair. It was purchased by NeighborWorks in November 2015 after sitting vacant for almost a year and a half. The building was demolished at the end of December 2016.
Construction students began building the first house in August 2017 at 2922 Ave. J and completed the first two houses as service learning projects. The rest of the homes were built by private contractors in order to comply with a deadline in a federal grant that helped pay for the project. The last home was finished on October 21, 2020 at 2911 Ave. K.
The houses were priced from $142,500 to $235,500 to attract families at a variety of income levels. The total assessed value of the development as of 2020 was $2.5 million. Hundreds of jobs were created during its construction. Buyers of homes priced between $142,500 and $155,000 could apply for up to $30,000 in down-payment assistance, Hazlewood said.
“The Walnut Grove subdivision would not have come to fulfillment without our community partners,” he said. “A special thank you to the City of Council Bluffs (which secured a Community Development Block Grant), Council Bluffs Community Development Department, Council Bluffs Community School District, Iowa West Foundation, Sunderland Foundation, Heistand Family Foundation, Pottawattamie County Housing Trust Fund, NP Dodge Council Bluffs, Menards, Midstates Bank, American National Bank, Availa Bank, First National Bank of Omaha, Bank of the West, Turn the Paige Investments, Atlas Builders and RD Homes.”