Brodhagen puts hope in cottage to solve housing crunch

Developer Stan Brodhagen gives a tour of his first cottage under construction. Brodhagen hopes the cottages he's building will serve as a proof of concept to other builders and encourage similar housing starts in Newton.

By Adam Strunk

NEWTON—Developer Stan Brodhagen hopes to prove that nice, entry-level housing can be built in Newton.

The proof of concept is a triangular building taking shape at the intersection of Broadway and Meridian.

It’s one of four, two-bed, two-bath, energy-efficient homes he’s constructing and shooting to sell between $100,000 and $140,000.

“I’m just trying to find ways to grow Newton,” Brodhagen said. “We don’t seem to be figuring it out with the houses we’ve been building.”

A bit of background might be necessary to understand the problem Brodhagen said Newton hasn’t been able to figure out.

Newton housing development has had a main story line in recent years, often reported about in the paper or discussed in city commission.

Newton has a historic shortage of houses to buy, but few new houses were being built.

While demand was strong in the $100,000 to $150,000 price range, builders said that building new houses in the demanded price range was unfeasible.

Brodhagen believes the design he’s using, however, can make the range work. He found the design while traveling in Germany near the Baltic Sea.

“I’m in the position to take the risk,” he said. “If there’s no demand, then I’ll rent.”

According to Brodhagen, a lack of demand that hasn’t been an issue so far.

“I’m getting multiple calls a day on these,” he said.

The homes he’s building—two in Newton and two in North Newton—will vary a bit depending on lot size, but the general concept will stay the same.

The homes—Brodhagen refers to them as cottages—will be between 1,100 and 1,300 square feet and a garage. The entrance will feature a living room and kitchen on the open plan. In back is a master bedroom, attached to a bathroom/utility room/storm shelter. Up a set of stairs will be a guest bedroom and a guest bathroom. Brodhagen said the homes will feature between a one-and-one-half and two-and-one-half car garage, depending on lot size. He said that both the walls and roof will be insulated, making them highly energy efficient.

Brodhagen believes his houses will be attractive to both young professionals needing housing and older people wanting to downsize.

“These are better than apartment living,” he said.

Brodhagen said the design, which makes efficient use of space, is something that can be built on a small lot, making infill development possible instead of requiring expansion on city borders.

“There’s 50 lots in Newton it would work on,” he said

Brodhagen, a long-time name and personality in terms of economic and local development, grew up in and spent most of his life in Newton. Today, he commutes from Wichita to spend time close to his eight grandchildren.

“I came out of retirement in March,” he said. “I didn’t see things getting done.”

Since then, he said he’s been involved in a number of local real estate sales and projects, including helping to facilitate the deal that will bring a Freddy’s Frozen Custard to Newton.

These new houses are part of Brodhagen’s attempt to keep the city moving forward, in his eyes. He said he decided to build them to serve as a proof of concept to other local builders and developers.

“We want to stimulate people to figure out alternatives,” he said.

Depending on how these four go, more might soon be popping up in the city.

“I have a builder who is interested after the concepts are done to build a number on 20 acres on a little lake over by South Dillons,” he said.

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