The first phase of Isa Villas is on target for its scheduled April 30 opening and will be ready to welcome 27 families that can move in the following month.
Pacific Rim Land Development LLC, which is developing the project under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit project of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, recently held a topping off ceremony for the project, which it is developing with the Northern Marianas Housing Corp.
According to online definitions, topping out or topping off, is a builders’ rite traditionally held when the last beam (or its equivalent) is placed atop a structure during its construction.
Isa Villas project manager Kathleen David of Pacific Rim Land Development LLC said that, despite some challenges, they are on track to complete the project by the end of April.
“A little over a year ago, this was just a piece of vacant land, now we are nearing completion,” she said.
David conceded that, similar to other projects, Pacific Rim also experienced some hurdles along the way. “But rain or shine, we are here. We managed to pull through and worked as a team,” she added.
That included worker issues, as they were also affected by the decision of U.S. Department of Homeland Security to remove the eligibility of Philippine workers from the H-2B visa program, which the CNMI and Guam use to get laborers in the construction trade.
David said Super Typhoon Yutu in late October last year also contributed some delays.
“But, since our company has a lot of resources and relationship with other subcontractors, they helped us in completing the project. The work was seven days a week and 12 hours a day in two shifts,” added David.
With the project’s impending completion, tenants can start moving in by April and should already be occupying the units by the end of May, she said.
David assured that Pacific Rim prioritized local skilled workers here and in Guam before getting the services of foreigners. Forty percent of the workers for the $13-million project were from Guam. There are still H-2B workers but they had to leave once their visas expires.
With the first phase of the project almost done, Pacific Rim could move on with Phase 2, which will be just a stone’s throw away, said company president Keith Stewart.
“Now, we’re moving forward with Phase 2. This is the start of what we plan to do to help the housing issues here in the CNMI. Phase 2 will have four buildings and we’re still finalizing the number of units. The property overall will have an approximate number of over 100 units.”
He said the first phase involved 27 units and that there has been tremendous interest for them.
He added that Isa Villas will not only help ease the CNMI’s housing shortage but also feature typhoon-resilient homes. “It’s not just getting a temporary relief in the housing need, but having quality housing where the applicants will feel safe, in case another strong typhoon comes.”
“We’ve built a property building with typhoon shutters. We’ve done everything in the project to make sure all are safe, even with flying debris. Typhoons will happen again but the product quality is sustainable and long-term,” Stewart added.
Isa Villas property manager Manuela Cruz said they will be offering freebies and other incentives. Tenants can choose between three- and four-bedroom units and all units are semi-furnished with solar power heaters.
“The first residents will be given a free washer and dryer. More incentives will be given as the time comes.”
He said the three-bedroom unit can fit up to six persons.
Rental rates have not been published yet.