PITTSBURG, Kan. — Nearly two years after initial plans were approved for the Silverback Landing housing subdivision east of the Pittsburg State University campus, construction of homes in the neighborhood is finally set to begin.


Mickey Vena, the real estate developer behind Silverback Landing, gave city officials a tour of the development area and answered questions about the project Tuesday at the Pittsburg City Commission meeting.


"Basically what we want Silverback Landing to be is a destination," Vena said. "When people come home, they feel like they’re in a neighborhood. They’re not just in a house that they bought somewhere. We’re going to have a park in the middle, a central park. With phase two it’s going to have a pool in it. We’re strongly committed to Silverback. We’re excited about it."


Vena’s company, P&L Development, LLC, and its construction contractor, Joplin-based GUS Properties, LLC, have pulled their first two building permits and hope to begin construction by mid-September, Vena said.


P&L plans to build several model homes based on four basic designs, which buyers will be able to customize with added features such as basements and three car garages. The expected price range for the homes, including the price of the lot, is expected to start at about $250- to $280,000, depending on factors such as lot size.


Bill Strenth, who lives in the neighborhood directly north of Silverback Landing and teaches at PSU’s School of Construction, spoke during the public input period of Tuesday’s commission meeting.


Strenth asked questions about issues he has previously brought up, including the quality of work done in constructing concrete streets in Silverback Landing, which were subsidized with more than $100,000 of taxpayer money. In response, Vena did not directly address the quality of the workmanship on the concrete streets, but as city officials have previously emphasized, he said that having concrete streets was preferable to asphalt.


"I’m not the expert on that, probably the staff will be able to tell you. You guys will probably save in spades with that being concrete as opposed to asphalt that needs to be redone every 10 to 12 years at the most," Vena said. "That street will last forever."


Commissioner Cheryl Brooks, who also lives in the neighborhood north of Silverback Landing and has been critical of aspects of the project and the city’s handling of it, also asked Vena if there had been any problems with the construction or quality of the concrete streets.


Vena said there had been "nothing major" that concerned him about the quality of the concrete work. "It’s built very nice, you know, quality," he said. "I sound like Donald Trump — ‘That’s the greatest road in the world, beautiful.’"


Vena also discussed delays in beginning construction at Silverback Landing beyond the schedule originally outlined in the 2018 Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID) agreement that established the Silverback RHID, allowing Vena to be reimbursed for infrastructure costs of the development project.


"I apologize that it took as long as it did," he said. "But I will tell you that it did take longer simply because we’ve been fighting the weather, we’ve been fighting COVID, and it was a little bit frustrating, but some of it was because we have not had a new neighborhood here in quite some time."


City Manager Daron Hall congratulated Vena on the construction phase of the project finally beginning to move forward.


"I know it hasn’t been easy and I just need you to know I appreciate it," Hall said. "You’ve treated our staff with the utmost respect. You haven’t made it easy on us but easy isn’t what we’re about. We wanted to get it right, and you’re the professional and you’ve had a lot of patience with us as we’ve tried to meet your needs, and never gave up on us."