While most communities in the Wausau area saw only minimal growth during the last 10 years, two villages bucked the trend.
The reason might be as simple as the soil moved aside to lay foundations for new homes.
The village of Kronenwetter’s population increased by 34 percent in the last 10 years, to 7,210 people, according to U.S. Census data released this month. The village of Weston experienced a 23 percent growth with a 2010 population of 13,868 people, second only to the city of Wausau in the metro area.
Local home builders and real estate agents give credit largely to the geography and soil makeup of the two communities — easing the construction of large subdivisions in the last 10 years.
Population follows new home construction, builders argue. Without the sandy soil in Kronenwetter and Weston that made construction cheap and broad spans of empty land allowing construction of affordable single-family homes, growth would have been slower.
“It’s really simple,” said Don Hall, who owns Assist 2 Sell Superior Service Realty in Weston with his wife, Carol Ann. “People want to live where they can buy an affordable home. Builders were able to provide that in Weston and Kronenwetter.”
Hall built the $1.8 million River Pines subdivision in 1999 on the north side of Weston after searching for land in the entire metro area. New construction in Wausau or Rib Mountain could cost a developer twice as much, Hall said, because hard, rocky soil can require blasting and other heavy equipment.
“If you can’t build affordable housing, you don’t build,” he said. “If I’m spending double on construction costs, I have to make that up in home prices. But a first-time buyer wants a $125,000 house, not a $250,000 house.”
Courtney Pheifer and her husband, Daniel, found themselves in the $120,000 range when they began looking for a home in the area in 2004.
The couple dreamed of a fixer-upper they could make their own and looked at older homes in Wausau. But financial reality set in quickly, Pheifer, 30, said.
“You start looking at the numbers and realize a fixer-upper isn’t so much fun,” she said. “We could get a really nice house, one we could afford, in a great neighborhood.”
They settled on a split-level home in Weston’s Sandy Meadows subdivision and moved there in June 2009. The family of five now lives in another home in the subdivision, “their forever home,” Pheifer said.
“I love having a city out my front door and the country out my back door,” she said.
Steve Mroczenski, owner of SJM Builders, has added 150 lots in Kronenwetter since 2004. Geography and soil type played a major role in his location choice, but Mroczenski said his own vision of a country lifestyle also influenced the decision.
“You work all day, you want to come home, have a beer in a nice, open yard and talk to the neighbor,” Mroczenski said. “Kronenwetter gives that experience, with a major city a short drive away.”
Lifestyle is a major draw for buyers, too. Joan Mathies, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and Forest Tappe Builders, said young couples regularly ask her to find homes in the D.C. Everest Area School District. They’re also looking for new homes — a rare commodity in Wausau and other land-locked communities in the metro area, Mathies said.
“It’s tough to find new in Wausau; the land just isn’t there,” she said. “When you combine wanting a new home and an affordable home, Weston and Kronenwetter are the places to look.”