It's commonplace at groundbreaking ceremonies to see dirt tossed around. At the future site of the Joplin Bungalows on Thursday, though, strong, cold winds also blew the hardhat off one of the dirt-turners and sent it flying through the air.
Jason Mohr, great plains regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Region VII, joked that as a northern Iowa native, the blustery cold was no bother.
"This is really considered kind of a nice day," he said. "As I say that, my hands feel like they're about ready to fall off."
Thanks to a mostly windproof tent set up on-site, the unfavorable weather didn't tamp down the excitement of the various groups involved in the housing project.
Joplin Bungalows, located at 26th Street and McCoy Avenue, is a planned 20-unit housing development for senior citizens and veterans, including those who are disabled.
"We believe very strongly in giving back to the community and everything that we do serves a higher purpose," said Heather Bradley-Geary, director of supportive housing for the Vecino Group, the Springfield-based developer of the project. "And ultimately, we want to help end homelessness, and we feel like this project is really doing that here in Joplin."
The project is something of a partnership of the city of Joplin, Economic Security Corp. and others. The Joplin Redevelopment Corp., which served as the city's land bank after the 2011 tornado, owned property on 26th Street that the ESC purchased for the housing project. The development will be funded by disaster recovery money from HUD grants.
Mayor Gary Shaw said at the groundbreaking that he is both a senior citizen and a veteran, and that the project will "show respect" to people who have contributed to the community.
"Seniors and veterans are people who have played important parts of our past and our present," he said. "This is a great project, and I just want to thank all of those involved. Not only is this a great project for the community, but it also fulfills a commitment that former Mayor Mike Seibert made that the city of Joplin would be a city that would try to create a place for homeless veterans."
Fred Osborn, president of JRC, said he considers the area where the project will be built one of the last reminders of the tornado, and that he's heartened to see it close to being used again.
"There will be a whole community here on this spot," he said. "And I'm proud of that" and that the JRC could make the property available.
Joplin Bungalows was originally planned as a 32-unit project, but it had to be scaled back after developers learned the prevailing wage would have to be paid for its construction.
Reducing the number of units brought the total cost down to an estimated $3.7 million, with $2.5 million for construction and $1.2 million for other costs such as engineering and design fees. Prevailing wage regulation requires governments to pay a minimum labor wage on certain construction projects. Material costs have also increased since 2014, when the project first began, city officials have said.
The project had an original budget of about $4.5 million. The city's planning and development director, Troy Bolander, said last fall that bids came in at about $5.4 million, over budget by about $900,000 when the prevailing wage was factored in.
ESC officials have said that some residents are still without permanent homes as a result of the 2011 tornado because they have such low incomes they cannot afford traditional rentals. Rents have gone up since the tornado, officials have said, and housing is needed for people with a monthly income of $700 or less.
Debbie Markman, resource development director for ESC, said Joplin Bungalows is estimated to be complete in January or February 2020.