GREAT JUNCTION — On a plot of baked clay next to a growing hospital, a group of investors plans to ease the West Slope’s housing crisis with a $45 million automated factory that could produce 100 ready-to-go apartments assemble monthly.
“Nobody’s ever built anything like this in the United States,” said Ted Steers, who is part of a Front Range investment group planning a European-inspired factory in Grand Junction. “This is key to solving the workforce housing crisis. We need to build housing faster, better and cheaper.
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Investors have acquired 177 acres in Grand Junction south of the Community Hospital for a development they call Centennial Park. The site is zoned for 2,000 units and the group has already sold lots to property developers planning for 700 units. Soon, the group plans to inaugurate a 237,000 square foot facility developed by Mosaic housinga new modular housing company that proposes to use computers and robots to build apartment buildings.
The plan mirrors Scandinavia’s modular home factory – Europe’s largest – which deploys robots to build 25,000 square feet of housing each week. The Lindbäcks Bygg factory in Sweden can build 16-storey apartment buildings that can be assembled in days. A new ilke Homes factory in Great Britain delivers 2,000 modular homes per year, each built in less than 12 weeks.
The first apartments planned for the Grand Junction site will be modular and built in factories in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. It costs about $8 per mile to ship about 1,000 square feet of modular housing, so shipping alone adds nearly $2.5 million to the cost of modular housing erected in Colorado but built in factories in across the country.
There is a growing adoption of modular housing in Colorado. The Fading West factory in Buena Vista will soon begin producing two fully built, ready-to-assemble homes per day. Simple Homes in the Globeville neighborhood of Denver is pre-building structures with an interior assembly line of home builders. the indieDwell Modular Affordable Housing Factory opened in Pueblo last year with a capacity to produce 160,000 square feet of housing per year.
And Colorado lawmakers want to bolster the state’s modular housing market with a $40 million loan program for manufacturers who can build homes to offset a statewide housing shortage.
The European model – with a $17 million robotic factory inside a $29 million building – will be unlike other modular factories that deploy workers inside warehouses to build houses as they see fit. do outside. The computerized process will require machine operators – Steers estimates the plant would employ up to 160 people at full production – more than construction workers.
“The Grand Valley is the right place for that,” Steers said, speculating that modular buildings could be spread across the West Rim as well as Utah and Arizona. “Take the shipping cost off of ordering modular buildings in Pennsylvania or Houston and we can make a big dent in the area’s housing crisis. Building this at Grand Junction makes the most sense.
Commercial real estate is hot in Grand Junction right now. Commercial property sales hit $250 million in 2021, a 50% spike from 2020.
Halliburton is developing a former industrial plot on the Colorado River in a 44-acre warehouse and office campus. Steamboat Springs Opportunity Zone investment firm, Four Points Funding, is building a 96-unit affordable apartment complex in the city Las Colonias Park. Ohio-based national retail giant Washington Prime Group is redevelopment of the Mesa Mall in Grand Junction next to the Centennial Park project. On the other side of the project, the community hospital is building a new 130,000 square foot cancer center.
The 177-acre site where Mosaic plans its housing factory has been vacant for decades as the original owners – who grazed sheep on the plot – considered development.
Diane Schwenke, director of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, said the housing factory project came at the right time. A Grand Valley Housing Needs Assessment 2021 showed that the number of building permits for multi-family units peaked in 1981 and did not rebound to previous highs set before the last recession in 2007. This study showed that Mesa County needed 3,572 rental units more by 2030.
“And that’s just today. As the community grows, we will need even more housing,” Schwenke said. “The need for housing is immediate in our area and the fact that this project can manufacture multifamily units and non-single family products in a timely manner is not only attractive but necessary if we are to begin closing the housing deficit.”