The first of many tiny homes within The Dwellings was on display Thursday during a tour for city officials.
Rick Kearney took the lead. Microphone in hand, the CEO of Mainline Information Systems, rattled off a long list of amenities and features planned at The Dwellings, off Highway 20. He said it will be the country's first sustainable tiny house community.
The development drew criticism from Wolf Creek Subdivision residents and nearby homeowners who feared the development would be a dumping ground for ex-cons and the homeless since Kearney bankrolled the West Pensacola Street homeless shelter named after him. Residents filed a lawsuit in opposition to the development, but a judge determined the project could move forward.
County commissioners are slated for a tour in a couple of weeks.
The homes range from 250 to 400 square feet. The tour group split in two to inspect the homes. About half a dozen fit comfortably in each home as city commissioners and aides moseyed on through.
Each house was staged with furniture, paintings and accents. Open cabinets, a two-burner stove and a fridge were sandwiched into the kitchen. A three-seat sofa fits into the living room. The bedroom has a bunk-style bed atop drawers for storage and a drop-down desk. The bathroom had a standing shower stall and curtain, a rod for towels, a sink and, of course, a toilet. Outside, a swing bench was suspended on the front porch for a touch of Southern charm.
"The first reaction you're going to have is, 'I could live here,'" Kearney said, describing the homes as cute and cozy. "We want this to be a living laboratory for sustainable communities."
On-site features will include a community center with a laundry room, a kitchen, a coffee shop, a general store and place for arts and crafts. An on-site greenhouse is planned, along with an organic garden. A Mabry style water tower will capture rainwater for on-site irrigation and plumbing at the community center.
The tour showcased the first two of 130 homes within The Dwellings. The first dozen is slated to be built within two months. Houses will be clustered to create "mini neighborhoods" on 30 acres.
A screening process is underway to identify who'll live at The Dwellings. The main criteria is need, Kearney said.
The target rent is $700 per month, which includes utilities and an additional $50 per month can be applied for three meals per day.
“We need this type of housing,” said City Commissioner Nancy Miller, who described the homes as beautiful and adorable. “There are such a broad range of people who would like to have this as a home.
People who are downsizing. Young people who are just getting out of school who are looking for affordable places to live because they’re not making much money.”