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Planning of southeast Willmar tiny home development moves forward with project out for bids

Plans for a tiny home development in the city of Willmar are moving forward with the developer seeking bids. The sale of city land was approved in August, and the developer shared concept plans Thursday with the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

A concept plan for the tiny home development being proposed n southeast Willmar by developer and real estate agent Justin Paffrath shows 12 tiny homes, some one-bedroom units, some with a bunk or office area downstairs with a bedroom upstairs, and some two-bedroom units. All will have one bathroom, and the garages are in the center of the development.
A concept plan for the tiny home development being proposed in southeast Willmar by developer and real estate agent Justin Paffrath shows 12 tiny homes — some one-bedroom units, some with a bunk or office area downstairs with a bedroom upstairs, and some two-bedroom units. All will have one bathroom, and the garages are in the center of the development.
Contributed / Justin Paffrath
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WILLMAR — The developer of what is thought to be the first tiny home development in the region has the southeast Willmar project out for bids.

Justin Paffrath, also a real estate agent, spoke last week to the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission to share the inspiration behind his development, as well as concept plans of how the development will be laid out.

Paffrath agreed with EDC Executive Director Aaron Backman that this would likely be the first tiny home development in the region if everything comes together as planned.

Paffrath spoke Sept. 8 with the EDC's Joint Operations Board and said he would be meeting the next day with Willmar Municipal Utilities and the Willmar city engineer to go over what they would like to see for the development.

It will be located on three city lots on the north side of Pleasantview Drive Southeast just west of the intersection with 15th Street Southeast, behind Giovanni’s Pizza. The Willmar City Council approved the land sale at its Aug. 1 meeting.

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There will be 12 separate units, and it is intended to be a common interest community, or a development governed by a homeowners association with declarations, covenants, restrictions and bylaws, Paffrath told the EDC.

“I’m in real estate selling houses, and I see a need and an issue with our monetary system and the cost of things, of housing,” Paffrath said of why he is creating this development. “The only way to get things affordable is to get really efficient with the size of a structure.”

He used Ikea sample layouts as an example of compact living space, noting Ikea’s sample floor layouts are in areas as small as 300 square feet.

“I could live there; everything I need is right there — bathroom, kitchen, living space, entry — it’s all there. All you need to do is just loft or go a little bit bigger for a bedroom, and that’s effectively what this is,” he said.

As for what inspired him to pursue this development, Paffrath said he was at a real estate convention, and one of the “Realtor of the year” nominees was a man who focused on tiny home communities for veterans.

He explained the difference between what that man was doing and what he is doing is that his development is geared more toward the private sector, noting there are a lot of tiny home developments taking place throughout the country.

He also said that a key to being successful is finding little pockets of real estate that can be inexpensive enough to keep land costs down, but be close to city infrastructure.

“It’s going to be difficult to just build them one at a time because of the amount of infrastructure that is required to support them all as a building project,” Paffrath said, noting he will likely pre-sell about half the units in order to begin the project. Once started, he hopes to have the development completed in two to four months, he added.

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Each building and a little bit of property will have its own property identification number that will also be attached to a garage in the bay of garages, he said. The rest of the development will be common areas.

This scale drawing shows the number of homes and amount of space each unit will have within the tiny home development being planned by Realtor Justin Paffrath.
This scale drawing shows the number of homes and amount of space each unit will have within the tiny home development being planned by developer and real estate agent Justin Paffrath. The development will be located on three city lots on the north side of Pleasantview Drive Southeast just west of the intersection with 15th Street Southeast, behind Giovanni’s Pizza.
Contributed / Justin Paffrath, Realtor

“It’s kind of fun, too, because we positioned them in a way where they are not stacked in there like sardines and you’re looking out windows into other people’s living rooms,” Paffrath said of the arrangement of the units. “They are all at an angle, so they are all going to have these different vantage points. The scenery around the area is really advantageous.”

The base model for the development is a one-bedroom unit.

“I think when it comes to the biggest bang for your buck, if you will, or cost-effectiveness, I think the other two plans are probably going to be the strategy,” he said.

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One plan will have a bunk room or office on the main floor with the bedroom upstairs, and the other is a two-bedroom unit. Units will have one bathroom and be lofted with accent beams to give it a downtown loft feel, Paffrath explained.

Units can be owner-occupied or be rental units for the purchaser.

“There’s a part of me that would like to see some area nonprofits get involved and maybe purchase one … for people in need of housing,” he said.

He mentioned they could be used as transitional housing for homeless people, or for people in need of temporary housing, such as church missionaries or out-of-town consultants coming to work with local businesses.

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“I could see people retiring off the farm and living in something like this; it’s minimal,” he continued. “I can see snowbirds enjoying something like this that they are only going to stay in for half the year. Because they are small, they are going to be easy to manage and maintain.

“I’d love to see it happen. I’ve been working on it for like, two years,” he said, noting previous city administration and staff were not enthusiastic about this project.

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
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