JOPLIN, Mo. —
The dream of home ownership became a reality for Jonathan and Bethany Hart and their four daughters on Thursday, when they were handed the keys to a new Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity home at 2413 S. Wall Ave.
“We are first-time homeowners,” Jonathan Hart said. “That feels good. We’re excited.”
The Hart home is the 77th home to be completed by Habitat for Humanity since the May 2011 tornado, according to Scott Clayton, director of the Joplin-area group.
“This is our 10th home in this neighborhood,” he said. “We are pouring a foundation for a new home across the street. We have tried to give each house its own look.”
The Harts’ 1,400-square-foot home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and has been designed with an eye toward energy efficiency. The house has an appraised value of $80,200, which is expected to go up as more houses are constructed in the neighborhood.
ANOTHER BIG YEAR
About eight blocks to the east, another project that also was issued a building permit within the past year is unfolding on a massive scale. The construction of Joplin High School is a $103 million project.
The city of Joplin issued building permits for the Hart home, the school and 1,277 other projects that totaled $238.3 million for the fiscal year that ended Oct. 31. That number comes from building permit statistics released periodically by the city; the latest numbers were released recently for October, the last month in Joplin’s fiscal year.
Records kept by the city show that the city has issued permits totaling about $970.8 million in the 29 months since the tornado, according to Bryan Wicklund, a city building inspector. Estimated damage from the tornado totaled $2.8 billion.
The $970.8 million is based on permits totaling $177.7 million after the tornado in 2011, permits totaling a record $554.8 million in fiscal 2012, and permits totaling $238.3 million in fiscal 2013. The permits were for demolition, residential repairs, new houses, commercial projects and multifamily buildings.
COMPARED WITH TUSCALOOSA
That compares with building permits totaling slightly more than $1 billion that have been issued by the city of Tuscaloosa, Ala., in the 30 months since an EF-4 tornado struck that community in April 2011, according to Deidre Spalnaker, public relations spokeswoman for the city of Tuscaloosa.
Spalnaker said Tuscaloosa has identified the projects in its tornado zone. So far, 350 commercial permits valued at $146 million have been issued, and 2,490 permits valued at $100 million have been issued for residential construction. Joplin has not tracked the number of residential and commercial projects in its tornado zone.
Spalnaker said Tuscaloosa has issued a total of 8,352 permits since its tornado. Joplin has issued a total of 8,232 permits since its tornado.
The Joplin list includes 1,801 demolition permits, 4,418 permits for residential repairs and rebuilding, 1,119 permits for new homes, 614 permits for commercial projects, and 200 permits for multifamily repairs and rebuilding. Wicklund said “a very high percentage” of those permits could be attributed to the tornado. Records show that about one-third of the new homes have been constructed in the tornado zone.
Comparing the recovery of the two cities can be problematic. As an example, Tuscaloosa did not lose a nine-story medical center as Joplin did. The permit for the new Mercy Hospital Joplin at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard was $269.4 million by itself. It is the single largest building permit in Joplin’s history.
The towns themselves and the tornadoes that struck them also are different. The tornado in Tuscaloosa, an EF-4 with wind speeds of 190 mph, cut a 5.9-mile swath across the city. The tornado at times was more than a mile wide. It damaged or destroyed 5,362 residential buildings and 356 businesses, causing more than $2 billion in estimated damage. It killed 52 people and injured more than 1,200.
The tornado in Joplin, an EF-5 with wind speeds of 200 mph, cut a 6-mile path across the city. The tornado was a mile wide at times. It damaged or destroyed 7,500 residences and 553 businesses, causing more than $2.8 billion in estimated damage. It killed 161 people and injured more than 1,150.
Tuscaloosa is spread out over 60 square miles. Joplin covers 31.4 square miles. Tuscaloosa had a population of about 90,000 in 2010. Joplin had a population of about 50,000 in 2010.
FOUR LITTLE GIRLS
But the spotlight Thursday was on the Harts and the new home for their daughters: Abigail, 7; Kathryn, 5; LynnMarie, 3; and Elizabeth, 6 months.
The children were told that they live in a special home by Jeff Baker, who represents the disaster ministry of the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. The group teamed up with Joplin Area Habitat of Humanity to build the home.
Baker, of Columbia, said the walls of the house were assembled in Springfield during the group’s annual conference in June and then were shipped to Joplin.
“Each board of each wall has prayers written on them,” he said. “There are hundreds of prayers — if only these walls could talk. Hundreds of people may have hammered just a single nail. Thousands of people have given to this project.”
Clayton, with Habitat for Humanity, said this is the sixth home that the United Methodist group has helped to construct in Joplin.
In addition to receiving the keys to the house on Thursday, the Harts received two gift baskets. Each of the girls received a pink Bible from Baker.