By DAVID GREEN
There were plenty of doubters out there, those who thought the old middle school property would remain vacant for years. With a weak economy, layoffs at area industries, a stagnant market for new housing—who would ever want to build homes on a vacant lot in Morenci?
There probably still are some residents who fall into the category of “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Keith Walker isn’t among those skeptics. By the time you read this, he and his partner, Sam Witt of Delta, should be the new owners of the school property and they will be moving forward to begin the construction of two homes—with several more to follow. They’ll consult with engineers and choose a site for the first unit and then they will move on to the second one.
With a price starting at under $125,000, the developers expect they will be building more and meeting their purchase requirement of at least 10 news homes within 10 years.
With the attractive sale price, the reputation of the school system, and Morenci’s small-town atmosphere, Walker and the board of education hope to attract new residents to town.
It’s possible that it won’t work that way. Maybe the result will be a series of “trading houses” where an existing resident buys one of the new models. With a trend of home buyers moving to a rural setting, time will tell how much interest exists in settling into a new home in an old neighborhood.
Walker says it’s been a challenge to reach the final agreement—in fact, both parties thought they had reached the final step a couple times until an additional layer of details arose—but he says it’s been a very enjoyable process. The cooperation he’s received from city and school officials only adds to his feeling of accomplishment.
Listening to Keith Walker talk about the project is a gratifying experience. Of course it’s a business venture and he hopes to profit from the endeavor, but there’s more to it. This is his home town—he even grew up in a home bordering the school property—and he wants to make a positive impact on the community where he’s spent his life.
In his vision of the project, everyone—the school, the community and his company—will all benefit.- June 21, 2006