A $90 million residential and retail project that could include a winery is planned for Auburn, but it will take root over the next decade, so would-be residents will need patience.
Willow Park Partners of Fort Wayne said it intends to build 180 homes in coming years and expects to begin initial work in the spring. Besides single-family homes, a senior living facility, apartments and three condo complexes, a log cabin neighborhood and retail shops are in the plans on County Road 427 off Interstate 69. The development would be along an existing man-made lake.
Willow Park President Glenn Conkling has had his setbacks, though. In 2009, his company, Farmington Homes Inc., went through Chapter 7 bankruptcy with more than $21.5 million in debt. Conklin said Tuesday the residential building company got caught in the subprime housing crisis while trying to grow business.
The crisis by itself wouldnt have done us in, but our expanding at the same time was too much, the 65-year-old developer said. Its public record and I dont run from it.
Conkling anticipates the first phase of his latest project, including 29 homes, to be completed by 2014.
The businessman has developed residential communities and other projects for 15 years but said the Auburn venture would be his his crown jewel.
It will be called Heron Lake.
This is going to take some time, said Conkling, who shared his plans at a DeKalb County commissioners meeting this week.
When buildings are made properly, they look better as they age. Thats where my head is at with this.
Ken McCrory is executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership Inc. Based on the enormity of Conklings proposal, McCrory said, he can see himself assisting the businessman in the future.
It is an intriguing, interesting project, McCrory said.
Most homes would sit on the lake that has about three miles of shoreline. Prices for the homes would range from $200,000 to $600,000. Apartments would rent for $1,100 a month.
The only thing that doesnt sit on the water will be the senior campus, Conkling said. Everybody living there, though, will have access to the lake.
Donald Grogg, president of the DeKalb commissioners, said he is impressed with Conkling, especially if it all goes through.
So many times projects like this dont make it, but they seem to have all of their ducks in a row, he said.