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New subdivision kicks off in Ashland

Work has begun on a new subdivision in Ashland that will add 78 housing units in a city where demand continues to be strong.

KDA Homes is in the process of completing the infrastructure — constructing streets, curbs, gutters and sidewalks; and installing connections for sewer, gas, water and electrical. It plans to build Earth Advantage-, Lifelong Housing- and Zero Energy-certified homes, beginning in April.

The first phase of the Kestrel Park addition will include 15 single-family houses and 15 cottages. The second and third phases will have 48 units, including townhouses and cottages.

The 15-acre development is located in north-central Ashland near North Mountain Avenue, bordered on the west and south by Bear Creek and on the north by the Meadowbrook Park II addition.

The first phase is five acres, the second and third phases another five acres, and a parcel of about five acres was donated to the Ashland Parks Foundation for open space.

The principals of KDA are Mark Knox, Dave DeCarlow and Laz Ayala. Knox takes care of permitting and land use planning issues, DeCarlow does the building, and Ayala is the real estate expert, drawing on his experience in finance and banking as a developer.

The effects of the coronavirus crisis have slowed many segments of the economy, but KDA is optimistic about the housing business.

“I believe the fundamentals are there for a strong housing market,” Ayala said. “These fundamentals include high demand, low supply, low interest rates and a desirable community.”

He acknowledged uncertainty about the full impact of the crisis on the economy, but is upbeat about housing.

“We remain committed to continuing full-speed ahead and finishing the project. But, of course, we won’t do it blind to the rapidly changing crisis we are experiencing,” Ayala said.

Working with Ashland designer Rick Lindemann, KDA is adopting the Prairie School design for the homes.

“I’m excited about the design parameters,” DeCarlow said. “I like the linear look, the low-pitched roofs, and the horizontal window patterns. The deep eaves look great. And there’s good solar access.”

Prairie School was conceived by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 20th century, yearning for a simplicity that better suited the American landscape. Since the early 1990s, it has seen a revival in the United States. It often incorporates influences from the Arts and Crafts movement.

Knox said he appreciates being able to incorporate fundamentals in the design that are good for the environment and that serve residents’ needs.

“We’ve learned more about these elements in other projects we have done,” Knox said, “like Verde Village, Phillips Corner and The Garden Cottages.”

Earth Advantage certification requires energy-efficient design, materials that preserve indoor air quality, water-wise technology, environmentally friendly building materials, and practices that diminish land degradation.

Zero Energy homes are defined by Earth Advantage as homes that generate as much energy on site as they use over the course of a year by utilizing solar panels on roofs that are properly oriented and pitched.

Lifelong Housing certification was developed to include modifications that make homes comfortable and safe lifelong for owners and accessible for visitors. Levered door handles and faucets, accessible bathrooms, wider hallways and doorways, and no-step entries are examples of features that allow residents to age in place.

Green areas in the development include preserved wetlands and a small, grassy park space near the cottages. The city plans to build a pedestrian bridge that would allow the Bear Creek Greenway path to cross the creek about 70 yards south of East Nevada Street and continue along the west side of the creek in the green space provided by KDA Homes.

The single-family homes will range from 1,400 to 1,800 square feet in size. The cottages will be about 1,000 square feet, a bit larger than the 800-square-foot cottages built by KDA in 2019 in a 12-unit Ashland development at North Laurel Street and Mountain View Drive. Townhouses will be about 1,200 square feet.

“Homes are expected to be priced from the high 400s ($400,000+) to the 800s,” Ayala said, “with cottages I’m guessing in the low 400s.”

Part of the reason for so much of the property being set aside as green space was because of the creek.

“We have a large floodplain to recognize and respect,” Knox said.

That meant considering the city’s 100-year floodplain line, based primarily on elevation, and FEMA’s, which Knox described as determined more by where high floods have taken the water historically. The considerable setback of homes along the eastern boundary of the development along an extension of Kestrel Parkway reflect those limits. Homes in the adjoining Meadowbrook Park II are similarly set back from Bear Creek.

The new subdivision fulfills Ashland’s density requirements and will connect to existing streets.

“The city was very understanding of our dealing with the physical constraints of the property,” Knox said. The development is fairly flat along the eastern boundary with a steep slope in the western portion.

Once a KDA development is ready to break ground, DeCarlow provides oversight as project manager — from constructing the infrastructure to building the homes.

“I work with 35 independent subcontractors,” DeCarlow said.

His history with them helps make the process a smooth one.

“Once I get the drawings, I have my subs give me bids. They’re a group I’ve worked with for years. They know each other and they know me,” he said.

He said there was another reason he developed those relationships — a shortage of labor in the construction industry that occurred after the 2008-2009 recession.

“Because of the lack of work then, some quit and others retired,” DeCarlow said. “About 30% of our workforce evaporated.”

That was exacerbated by a lack of interest among young people to get into the construction trades and the availability of fewer migrant workers.

DeCarlow said he has enjoyed being part of KDA Homes, which was established in 2013.

“I like to be on the cutting edge,” he said, “building solar-ready, Earth Advantage, lifelong housing.”

Looking ahead, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice the craft. KDA Homes has several other developments in the pipeline, including a 30-acre, 300-unit development in Medford and another large development in Ashland on the near horizon.

Jim Flint is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Jim Flint photoKDA Homes principals, from left, Laz Ayala, Dave DeCarlow and Mark Knox review plans for Kestrel Park at the 15-acre site.