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Amid Low Inventory, Developer Adds Housing Stock On Bloomington's East Side

Rathna and Krishna
Ryan Denham
Rathna Ramachandran, left, and Krishna Balakrishnan at the construction site for the Villas at Woodbine development in east Bloomington.

Something rare is happening on Woodbine Road on Bloomington’s far east side: Someone is actually building homes.

The 10-unit Villas at Woodbine development is under construction, with move-ins starting this summer. It’s located near GE and Towanda Barnes roads near the Parke Regency hotel.

The market for single-family home construction has largely dried up in Bloomington-Normal in recent years. A dozen years ago, homebuilders were selling 500 new homes a year, with new subdivisions coming onto the market routinely. Last year there were just 49.

The Woodbine homes are attached, but they still add inventory to a housing market that badly needs it.

“In Bloomington, the average age of any home is like 20 years now,” said Rathna Ramachandran, lead developer on the project. “So there is a lot market here for someone who is looking for a new home, but they don’t want to go upper $300,000. We thought there was a good market for that.”

The housing stock is even older than that. Of the 34,000 units available, more than half were built before 1980, according to Census data from 2017.

The Villas at Woodbine are priced between $250,000 and $300,000, depending on amenities. Ramachandran said he’s targeting two specific types of buyers.

“We are definitely looking for empty-nesters who want to downsize from a bigger home to a smaller home, without losing the amenities or luxuries they have in the home,” he said, pointing to smaller lots without lawn maintenance or snow removal.

“The second is people who are looking for new homes in the market, individual homes, but they couldn’t afford it because of the prices. So we are trying to compromise between an individual home and an attached home, by increasing the size of the attached home, and providing them with everything an individual home has,” Ramachandran said.

There are two different styles available—one called Vaigai, the other Kaveri. Both are named after rivers in India.

The development is going up on land formerly owned by the group that owns the nearby Parke Regency Hotel and Conference Center. Parke owner Krishna Balakrishnan joined Ramachandran to give WGLT a tour of the construction site earlier this month.

Ramachandran said he considered many locations, but the Woodbine site was close to Towanda Barnes Road (with access to Interstate 55), major employers, and the airport. The city is also planning to build Sweeney Park on nearby Pamela Drive.

Ramachandran said his group’s real estate experience up until now has mostly been in multifamily rentals. This is its first time doing construction. Tarter Construction is the builder.

“This came to us as a good opportunity from the group that was selling this land to us. So we picked it up,” Ramachandran said.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.