Single-Family Homes Sprout, But Builder Hedges His Bets With Apartments

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One of Michigan’s largest homebuilders is back in a big way, but Mike Chirco is simultaneously developing single-family homes and apartments to help weather future downturns. The strategy is a departure from building eras of the past when most builders focused predominately on single-family homes.

“We’ve acquired quite a bit of property in the last two or three years at reduced prices, so we can compete with anyone, but my worry is once we run out of lower-priced inventory we’ll see new home prices take off,” says Chirco, president and owner of MJC Cos. in Macomb Township. “By building homes and apartments, we’ve got flexibility to provide people with what they need.”

Chirco says MJC is on pace to build 300 homes by the end of this year, and he has a backlog of 169 homes. He also will build a $1.5 million country French manor for Homearama, set for later next summer (Aug. 29 to Sept. 21) at the Pinnacle at Oaklands on Silverbell, near Adams, in Oakland Township. The last Homearama was in 2003.

In recent weeks, Chirco has pushed forward on several fronts, including the acquisition of the former Wolverine Golf Course at 25 Mile and Romeo Plank in Macomb Township. The former owners had a $27-million mortgage on the property, and after the group defaulted on the note, Chirco and his team acquired the property for $4.5 million.

A few years back, nearly 100 homes were built and sold on the former 54-hole course, and now Chirco is planning to complete the first phase of 69 lots while launching a second phase of 123 lots. The homes — ranch, Colonial, and story-and-a-half designs — will be priced at $300,000 and up. “We’ll get the roads done soon and we’ll have a couple of models ready in the spring,” Chirco says.

Nearby, MJC will offer 300 lots at 22 Mile and Garfield in Macomb Township. The project, called Monarch Estates, will open in late spring. Next to Pine Trace Golf Club in Rochester Hills, Chirco has started work on 43 lots where the future homes will be priced below $500,000. The project, called Somerset Pines, will open sometime next summer.

On the apartment front, Chirco plans to build 250 units at Maple and Beck in Commerce Township and a similar-sized project in Novi along Grand River Avenue, near Meadowbrook. “We’re out of the recession, but we’ll keep building apartments for people who cant afford or don’t want to own a home,” Chirco says.

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