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Touring Atlantic

About 20 Crestonians viewed condominiums built by Don Sonntag during a two and a-half hour bus tour in Atlantic Saturday.

Published: Monday, March 10, 2014 11:32 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 12:26 p.m. CDT
Following a bus tour Saturday, Don Sonntag — private developer from Atlantic — answers questions from interested Crestonians about the condominium area he's proposing to build in the Cottonwood Subdivision in Creston. One of those interested Crestonians was local real estate agent Dennis Carter, pictured here sitting left of Sonntag.

ATLANTIC — Crestonians received a thorough viewing of condominiums built by private developer Don Sonntag during a two and a-half hour bus tour all across Atlantic Saturday.

Sonntag has built about 175 condominium units in the Atlantic area over the past 40 years. In January, he made a proposal to Creston City Council to build at least 14 condominium units in the Cottonwood Subdivision in Creston.

The bus tour Saturday around Atlantic was organized by Creston Administrator Mike Taylor so that city council members, local real estate agents and interested Creston citizens could view Sonntag’s condominiums in person.

The first stop on the tour was a 1,229 square-foot condominium on a slab with two bedrooms, two baths, large one car garage with an estimated cost of $149,950. This is one of the two floor plans Sonntag proposed in January.

What did they think?

“You get what you pay for with that unit,” said local contractor John Kawa, one of about 20 Crestonians on the bus tour. “It had cheaper doors and trim. If you were car buying, this would be the economy car on the lot.”

Paul Eckhoff, commercial and residential real estate agent, agreed the first condominium unit shown was generic, but said the $149,950 asking price for a new condominium — because of the rise in cost for building materials — is not out of line in today’s housing market.

The unit shown did not have a storm shelter or safe room.

Gay Lynn Owens, local real estate agent, recommended Sonntag include that in the proposed floor plan because having a safe place to go during severe weather is a priority for potential buyers in Creston — especially with the EF2 tornado that ripped through town in April 2012 still fresh in their minds.

Sonntag said adding a storm shelter or safe room would not be a problem, but there would an additional price.

“It seemed to be a concern,” Sonntag said this morning. “Adding one wouldn’t be tough to do. I will get to work on that and get a number together for the cost.”

Second stop

After viewing the first unit, Sonntag came aboard the bus with the other passengers and provided an hour-long informational tour around Atlantic of almost all the condominium areas he’s developed over the past 40 years.

“He showed us everything from his new condominiums to the ones he built in the ‘70s,” said Nancy Loudon, at-large Creston city councilwoman. “And, you could tell even the older dwellings were built with quality and have stood the test of time. I thank Mike Taylor for organizing this because seeing his developments really helped me understand visually his passion for building quality condominiums.”

The final stop on the tour Saturday was a condominium similar to the 1,458-square-foot condominium Sonntag proposed to the city council in January. The floor plan proposed included two bedrooms, two baths, double car garage and (unfinished) walkout basement.

The condominium shown received good reviews from those attending.

“It was really, really nice,” said Marsha Wilson, ward 4 city councilwoman.

But, Wilson pointed out the one shown had several thousand dollars in upgrades including more expensive cabinetry, countertops and a fully finished basement.

The consensus from those attending was the larger units being proposed by Sonntag with walkout basements are expensive and would best suit families, not retired citizens looking to downsize.

“The larger one is nice, but $259,000 is a little pricey for the majority of the Creston market I deal with,” Owens said.

Possible third floor plan?

That said, many on the tour asked Sonntag if he could provide a third floor plan in the ballpark of $190,000. Eckhoff — who is considering purchasing one of these condominiums —  said he would like to see the second floor plan on a slab instead of with a walkout basement.

“I think that (second) floor plan on a slab, somewhere in between the two price ranges he has now, would better attract those nearing retirement and looking to downsize,” he said.

Sonntag said this morning he’s already began drawing floor plans for a third option and that plan would be done by Sunday.

Move forward or not?

There were at least four real estate agents on the tour, including Owens, Eckhoff, Dennis Carter and Becky Barker.

Carter agreed with Owens that the $259,000 price range would be difficult to sell in the Creston area.

“They would be trouble,” Carter said. “We made some suggestions to Don after the bus tour. Most everyone felt the first one seemed small and wasn’t really appealing and the second one was nice, but again the price would be trouble. We suggested a third floor plan and price in the middle.”

There were four city council members on the bus tour Saturday. They included Loudon, Wilson, Dave Koets and Ann Levine.

Loudon thanked the members of the community who came on the bus tour. She would like to continue building a working relationship with Sonntag and hopefully move forward with this project and provide quality housing for current and future residents of Creston.

Wilson said she has mixed emotions about the proposed condominiums and still isn’t certain if they will sell.

More discussion about Sonntag’s condominium proposal is expected at future city council meetings. A vote by the council — whether to move forward with this condominium project or seek other options — is expected this spring.

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