"It's a great day for America, and a wonderful day here in Minot," former North Dakota governor Ed Schafer told the gathered crowd.
Backdropped by a field overgrown with sunflowers, Schafer joined a select group of private investors, local public officials and red-jacketed Minot Area Chamber of Commerce ambassadors in donning hard hats before ceremonially breaking ground Wednesday at the future site of the North Highland Subdivision on 30th Avenue Northwest.
Let's get our shovels out and let's get to work," Schafer said, before digging up the first shovelfuls of dirt.
Microphone in hand, former North Dakota governor Ed Schafer says a few words Wednesday afternoon before the groundbreaking at the planned North Highland Subdivision project.
The subdivision's 15.5-acre campus will be the location for a $42 million luxury apartment complex, whose 239 units will be accommodated by an underground parking garage, swimming pool, fitness facility, theater, playground and basketball court. With Dickinson-based J. Scull Construction Services beginning work immediately, the townhouse portion of the project is expected to be available sometime next spring.
"We're glad you're pushing things up north," said Jessica Donamaria of the MACC ambassadors. "We definitely need the development."
The project was a brainchild of Jerry Chavez, president and chief executive officer of the Minot Area Development Corporation. He was acknowledged to be the driving force behind North Highland, making the case to developers that the facilities he envisioned would fill a need within the community for higher-end housing.
Key to that development is the Bakken Select Fund, a Delaware-incorporated limited liability company involved in the venture. A principal of this fund is Paul Hegg, president and CEO of Hegg Companies Inc., based in Sioux Falls, S.D., whose subsidiary Hegg Development Group is one of the major project partners. Hegg is also currently involved in the planning stages for a Class A office facility in Williston.
Minot City Council member Bob Miller described the North Highland project as one of the steps the city is taking toward making boom-related growth more permanent. "It's important to develop more housing," he said, adding "this fills a niche that we haven't had before."
He mentioned that the location will work well for families, sited between the Hwy 52 Bypass and North Broadway, and a stone's throw from the relocated Erik Ramstad Middle School and new MarketPlace Foods locations. Miller added that the amenities would offer an improved quality of life for residents as well.
Schafer echoed those sentiments, saying the project is a "signal that the oil boom... is here to stay for the long term." An advisor to the Bakken Select Fund, the former governor and agriculture secretary sees this as a step forward in cementing some of the growth Bakken oil development has brought to the region.
He feels that "local presence" in area investment is important to that growth, contributing to more wisely chosen projects that give "an investor a secure feeling" and contribute to the long-term goals of the community.
But growth isn't built on luxury apartments alone. "There's still a very strong need for affordable housing," Miller said, explaining that the City of Minot is looking into programs geared toward making such accommodations more readily available. As a whole, he felt that "some of the pricing is leveling off" from the initial spike in costs due to housing shortages had followed the 2011 flood, which were worsened by strains from oil-related growth. More units are taking off some of the market pressure, but additional projects are in the works, he said.