Developer Jason Van Sickle is moving ahead with plans for more apartment communities now that his $20 million Chisholm Lake Apartments at K-96 and Oliver has opened, but his new apartments won't be what he originally planned.
"My plan was to take that model – nicer, upscale apartments – and do them in other cities," Van Sickle says. He says he "was successful at getting about a dozen projects in our pipeline."
He was considering markets such as Tulsa and Kansas City.
"But I saw in these markets there was a flood of people coming in to do apartments," he says.
As he started studying economic development, Van Sickle says he discovered a new opportunity.
"I realized small towns have a huge and desperate need ... for housing, especially apartments," Van Sickle says. "We've got nine cities where we're really making a push."
In Newton, Valley Center, Derby, Haysville, Rose Hill and Wellington, he's working with landowners and is proceeding with financing and rezoning.
"We're also working with the cities of Hutchinson, Bel Aire and El Dorado right now to do some site selection work."
Van Sickle considered about 200 towns around the state then narrowed his list to 50.
"I just started picking up the phone and calling," he says of city managers and others.
He now predicts that in the next five years, he and a variety of partners will do $700 million in apartment development in smaller communities.
"They desperately could benefit from our model," Van Sickle says.
He says his model is different than other small-town apartment models.
"Low-income housing is what's been built," he says. "In the real estate development world, that's been the game. ... I didn't want to do low-income housing,"
He says his J. Van Sickle & Co. – which a year ago was a one-man shop and now has 11 employees – spent a year and a quarter million dollars to develop a workable prototype for high-quality, market-rate apartments.