Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD – Ira Roffel has completed the first phase of development at Kensington Park Apartments in Fairfield.
He renovated the seven units he inherited in 2018 and added three more.
Kensington Park Apartments refers to two apartment buildings on Libertyville Road on the south side of Fairfield. At the time Roffel bought the apartments, the west building had four units and the east building had three, though it was made to have four as well but one unit was so badly damaged by a pet owner that it was unusable.
Roffel said that when he assumed ownership of the buildings, he had to remove everything in the damaged unit down to the concrete. He added two units to the east building, one on each end, by converting the two garages into carriage apartments.
Roffel didn't renovate the units all at once but waited for each to become vacant so that he disturbed his tenants as little as possible. Most of the renovations were done by the fall of 2018, and just as they were wrapping up, Roffel nearly died from a massive heart attack. He was sick for more than a month with complications from the incident, but today he's back on his feet and ready for a new adventure.
Now that there are 10 new or freshly redone units in the complex, Roffel has his sights set on 10 more in a series of buildings he's planning for the north side of the property.
He wants to build two four-plexes and a duplex. He received a Workforce Housing grant to do the project, which he hoped to do this year, but the coronavirus got in the way.
The factory that was supposed to make Roffel's modular homes shut down for part of the year, but that wasn't the only problem. Roffel said he would like to start construction this fall but now it's hard to find contractors because they're all so busy doing work that was delayed from the spring.
'Everyone is overwhelmed,” he said.
Roffel hopes to start construction next year. He has already put in a temporary road between the two existing apartments that will lead to the new ones north of it. He tore down a garage in the back to make room for the new buildings, and the city has installed a sewer line that will serve them.
The only things left to do before construction starts are installing a water line and gas line.
Roffel plans to start by building one of the four-plexes and seeing how quickly it fills up. He said he wants to make sure there is plenty of demand so the units stay full.
'I think Fairfield is going to grow as soon as coronavirus goes down and it's safe to move,” he said. 'People are moving out of big cities. A thousand people are leaving New York every day.”
Roffel said his units will be outfitted with high-speed internet, perfect for the growing number of people who are working from home. The new apartments will be more luxurious than the current set, Roffel said, will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms per unit.
The units will be about 1,100 square feet each.
Roffel said his goal in renovating the 10 units he has now was to provide moderately priced living space with luxury amenities such as granite countertops, plank flooring, an open floor plan, and new ceiling fans. That last one was originally going to be installed in just one apartment, but when Roffel carried the ceiling fan to the apartment, other tenants saw him and asked for one of their own.
'That ended up costing me $5,000, but I think I'm better for it because people really like living there now,” Roffel said.
Though Roffel eliminated the garages on the east building, he expanded the outdoor parking area so now there are 22 parking spots instead of the eight there were before.
The apartments have stacked washer-dryer combos that Roffel installed to create more room in the closet, as opposed to the side-by-side washer and dryer the west building had before (the four townhouses in the east building had no washers or dryers).
Roffel has made changes to the exterior of the property planting fruit trees and flower beds with rose bushes, and adding bird houses on tree stumps.
'I put bird feeders in to bring more nature to the property, because there wasn't much when I bought it,” Roffel said.
Some of the apartments have new decks, and those with patios have petitions giving each tenant a greater sense of privacy.
'Everyone has a private patio or deck with beautiful views of the woods behind the apartments,” Roffel said, adding that the two penthouses on the west building have panoramic views of the north and south because they have two decks.
Roffel said a few years ago that Kensington Park Apartments was going to be his last project before he retires. Recently, he came close to buying a house to renovate, but ultimately sold it to another developer after his significant other convinced him it was too much work. Roffel said he's glad that the new apartments will be modules, because it means he won't have to juggle working with so many contractors. Roffel said he has had a good relationship with the contractors who worked on the existing apartments, contractors such as Gates Construction, who did the flooring, sheetrock and painting, Brian McDonald for plumbing, Neil Bulloc for framing and finishing, Chuck Ledger for electric, and Brian Sheehan and Sebastian Sheehan for tiling and carpentry, and A&C Construction.