Iowa’s first agrihood is open in Cumming.
Early last year, when Diligent Development announced plans for Iowa’s first agrihood, the project was described as a ‘sustainable farming community for the modern age’ and a hometown concept that married the past and the future. The future, apparently, is here.
Middlebrook Development, located in Cumming, just south of West Des Moines, covers over 500 acres, with residential plats, a farm, and a variety of commercial projects.
“We have the first residents in Plat 1,” says Kalen Ludwig of Peoples Company, representing developer Diligent Development, “and our first model home is open, which incorporates all our architectural standards.”
With over 1,000 homes planned for the development, the project could double the population of Cumming within a few years, so Diligent Development has been working closely with the community to ensure that Middlebrook enhances the small-town life residents have come to love.
The Great Western Bike Trail runs along the western edge of Middlebrook, and plans for the development include parks, community gardens, and a variety of housing—from senior living and estate lots to alley-access neighborhoods and cottage homes. Smaller neighborhoods within the development will enhance that small-town feel, encouraging a pedestrian-oriented lifestyle.
“Plat one, at the east edge of the Great Western Crossing neighborhood, is sold out already,” Ludwig says, “and development was just completed on plats two and three in August, so those lots are ready for construction now.”
Just over half of those recently developed lots have been reserved for the 2021 Home Show Expo, with seven builders already committed and lots available for several more. In addition to those existing lots, Peoples plans to have plat four, at the western edge of the neighborhood, developed and ready for builders by next spring. It will include about 30 lots.
Some areas will offer alley-loaded entries, but garages will not be the dominant feature from any street. Architectural standards for Middlebrook homes ensure that the community will stand out architecturally, while remaining true to the small-town look. Those standards allow for farmhouse, craftsman, and Tudor-revival-style homes which celebrate front porches, front courtyards, and other features that encourage neighborhood life.
When the HomeShowExpo takes place in July, Ludwig says, “the goal is to have the neighboring park underway, as well as most of the professional landscaping we have planned along the bike trail.”
Diligent Development has also set up a fund to provide residents with resources to continue enhancing the neighborhood in the future.
“The Home Owners Association [HOA] for Great Western Crossing collects dues to cover maintenance and care, as designated by the association,” Ludwig explains, “but a portion of those monthly dues goes to a Middlebrook HOA, which will provide for community programs and events. In addition, upon the initial sale of each lot, the builder and developer contribute to a fund set aside for the Middlebrook HOA to use on future community enhancement projects.”
Commercial development is also underway, beginning with a wine bar and beer garden in a renovated schoolhouse across the road from the farm. Developers hope to open the venue next spring. Future commercial development will extend Cumming’s current Main Street district south of the Cumming Tap Room.
“We’re envisioning a boutique shopping area,” Ludwig says, “similar to Galena, Illinois, with a general store, clothing stores, a coffee shop, and even a bike shop, since it’s right next to the trail.”
Despite the slowdown in the economy, interest in Middlebrook has been strong.
According to Ludwig, “In a lot of ways, the pandemic has actually sparked interest, even beyond the Des Moines area. We’ve had people contact us from Chicago and other cities, who are wanting to simplify the way they’re living and get out of those huge metropolitan areas.”
As mentioned in the April 2019 issue of BUILD Des Moines, “agrihoods offer multiple benefits to communities, including promoting the health of the residents, encouraging social interaction, conserving the environment, and creating jobs that support the local economy.”
The philosophy behind agrihood development views community on multiple levels—land use, housing trends, environmental concerns, and food consumption. An agrihood is designed to address each of those.
Though it seems, in many ways, most Iowa towns have been a type of agrihood for decades, as our communities spread out and metropolitan areas grow, that traditional Iowa lifestyle is being lost.
Many of today’s homebuyers are looking for neighborhoods that offer the best of yesterday with the amenities of the future—a small town country feel with the perks of urban life close by.
With its proximity to all of Des Moines’ amenities, just off Interstate 35, and with the existing bike trail and growing community farm, Middlebrook is well on its way to becoming that hometown.