Creating a Community

Housing Development Newport Ridge

How a housing developer turns an empty plot of land into home.

Photos provided by Newport Ridge

Before you move into your new dream house, before the groundbreaking and even before the roads are paved, careful thought and planning go into a housing development. Mark Ottis was part of the team that created the Newport Ridge housing development in Kindred, ND, his first development. Newport Ridge is an airpark housing development with mostly single-family lots and a few hangar home lots. Ottis pursued this endeavor with three partners: Kelly Perhus, Dean Merhiy and Marlowe Rud.

Ottis was born and raised in Kindred by a family that has farmed that land for generations. He is also an aviator. Having farmed the land surrounding the Kindred airport and having an interest in aviation, Ottis nurtured a vision of a hanger home community. The dream of a community where someone can have their house and airplane together near an airstrip is what got Ottis started in development and marked the origins of the Newport Ridge development.

Before and after

The Kindred airport is nestled into the community, making it a desirable location for prospective homeowners.

“When you’re going to develop a piece of property you have to find the right piece of land and then you have to have the right vision for that piece,” Ottis said.

It’s important for the land to be connected to a community that makes sense, meaning that the infrastructure of the community is compatible with that of the development. The perfect chemistry between a developer’s vision and the piece of land is a good indicator of success for a budding development.

“You kind of have to have the heart of a developer,” Ottis said. “You have to be always looking at things and thinking, ‘How can I make them better? Is there something I see here that nobody else has seen?’ You can bring out that character of that parcel of land.”

Ottis saw a unique opportunity in Newport Ridge with its proximity to the airport, school and a park and capitalized on it. Some developers may have been hesitant to utilize land adjacent to an airport, but Ottis and his partners turned what could have been a liability into an asset.

Once the vision was conceptualized, Ottis worked with the city government to execute the plans. Cities have established ordinances and lot sizes that need to be accounted for, as well as existing water, sewer, storm sewer and traffic infrastructure the development needs to be compatible with. Engineers become a major component in this stage.

Creating Community
Once the land has been acquired and the property subdivided into lots, there still remains the challenge of turning the development into a community. How does one instill a sense of camaraderie and togetherness among the residents to truly build a neighborhood?

“You want to create communities where people participate in the community, they’re not just spectators in the community,” Ottis said. “In Kindred, the community itself has a certain culture and we just try to build on that.”

The appeal of a small-town lifestyle is drawing in residents, in addition to the airport itself. Newport Ridge also took the initiative to mix its smaller and larger lots together. According to Ottis, this decision has led to a stronger neighborhood.

The existing community and residents should also be taken into consideration when planning a development. “They see the value of the community growing and they also see the value of bringing in new citizens to the community,” Ottis said. “I tell people the person that builds on that lot down the street may turn out to be your best friend or your children’s best friends, but you’ll never have that opportunity to meet that person if they don’t build a house on that lot.”

The development itself can be a promise of new possibilities. Like anything, this comes with occasional challenges.

“We can’t create a community and a street and a lot that’s going to be absolutely perfect, all the way through your life,” Ottis said. “There’s going to be things that you’re going to have to adjust to. I think it’s a matter of helping people manage those expectations.”

Building Your Future Home
A successful development is created with the future residents in mind. Understanding the demographics of the people interested in living in your development is key. For Newport Ridge, the primary demographic is young families.

“The school is the drive in the Kindred area; it’s the center of the town,” Ottis said. “Everything revolves around school activities, but that’s pretty much any small town. So creating lots that will fit families and at a price point where those younger adults can afford to build is important to us.”

Moving to a development also provides homeowners with the opportunity to build a new house that perfectly serves their needs. Many of the people moving into the development will be new to the community as well. What drew you to the development could be same for someone else, creating a common ground between neighbors. Perhaps that common ground could be the unique character and aviation focus of Newport Ridge.

“There are some developments that are very sterile,” Ottis said. “They’re just straight streets and the houses pretty much all look the same and I don’t think that’s what people want when they come to our community.”

The Future of Developments
With his first development nearing completion, Ottis has already begun planning the next one, this time with his family. The second development is taking note of current trends and the lessons he’s learned from developing Newport Ridge.

One of the elements he’d like to incorporate into this next development is eliminating backyard neighbors by setting up lots that back up into green space or a water feature. People have also become comfortable with smaller lots as long as there is easily accessible green space nearby. There has been dwindling demand for housing developments along golf courses, as they are expensive, labor-intensive and many people don’t have the time or resources to commit to golfing.

“There’s actually developments where they have golf courses incorporated in the developments where they’re taking the golf course out, and just leaving the fairways as park areas,” Ottis said. “The idea of just creating pathways through your development that are interesting, that’s one of the things we’re trying to incorporate.”

Other emerging trends are the reemergence of front porches and increased common areas to make it easier to interact with neighbors in a more casual setting. According to the Wall Street Journal, 25 years ago 42 percent of U.S. homes were built with a front porch. In 2004, that number was 52 percent and in 2020 it had risen to 65 percent of new homes.

“There’s a lot of lessons I learned from the first one, and hopefully I’m using those lessons well. Managing people’s expectations, taking the unique pieces of your property that can be construed as a negative and turning them into a positive, finding out what makes this neighborhood unique.”


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