Rolla has been a hive of construction activity this year for the retail and housing sectors, signifying a move in the right economic direction. Developers are literally banking on Rolla's future. Adding to the housing mix is a multi-family housing construction project with a new twist from Fort Wood Hotels, on White Columns Drive.

Rolla has been a hive of construction activity this year for the retail and housing sectors, signifying a move in the right economic direction. Developers are literally banking on Rolla’s future. Adding to the housing mix is the multi-family housing construction project of Fort Wood Hotels, on White Columns Drive. The elevated 12 acre development will soon be home to 188 one,two,three and four bedroom apartments. It’s a $20-plus million dollar gated community that will include a resort-style pool, a 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center, laundry room, a community room with seating areas, big screen TV's, a large two-sided fireplace, coffee and juice bar and two collaboration meeting rooms.

It’s called “The Lodges of Rolla” and upon first glance, Big Cedar Lodge near Branson comes to mind. Currently, it’s a flurry of activity with concrete trucks and flatwork finishers, landscapers, painters, dirt movers and an interior decorator or two.

Rick Morris, director of operations for Fort Wood Hotels by Ehrhardt Properties and a managing partner with Liberty Management Group calls it “a new level of accommodation” for Rolla. The three and four story apartment buildings a multi-family/student housing with a twist. All the amenities such as water/sewer, cable/internet, security, trash disposal and use of the fitness center, pool, etc. are included in the monthly lease. The complex sits on a rise with a panoramic view of the distant hills. Due to the construction, a little imagination was required to see the finished product.
“You’ll see beautiful landscaping and not just an asphalt jungle.”

When asked about the housing market here in Rolla that might gravitate to this style of leasing, Morris said, “We’ve had incredible response from Phelps County Regional Medical Center.” He said they like the gated access, the seclusion and the easy access to everything. You’re less than a one minute drive to the hospital or the university,” he noted.

The developers are not strangers to the area and say they know the market well. Morris has lived in Rolla for ten years, his wife is a Rolla-native and his son attended the university here. The General Contractor and partner is Jeff Boyce, from Springfield, who has cut his eye-teeth on multi-family unit housing. Steve and Spike Ehrhardt round out the four partners in this project.
Rolla native Scott Carroll, is the general manager of the new complex.
 The partners latest project was the 180 unit Liberty Park Apartments near Fort Leonard Wood.
“We found a need for soldiers and their families to stay in affordable, quality housing,” he said, so The Lofts of Rolla is patterned off the success of that venture.
“People like quality,” Morris said.
“We believe if you provide quality to quality residents, then they are going to take care of it.”

One housing unit and the common lodge that will serve as the social hub of the complex are close to being finished, and according to Morris, the  first building is close to having full occupancy, so the project is running full bore.
How have the city fathers taken to the development?
“They have been wonderful to work with,” said General Contractor/partner Boyce.
“From the conception of this project forward, they have been 100 percent supportive of the project and offered to help us in any way they could,” added Morris.
The area used to be The Regal Trailer Park, said Boyce.
“There were about six houses in here, a trailer and 35 to 40 trailer pads,” said Morris.
The crown had to be leveled about eight feet down, so there was quite a bit of earth moving to accommodate the housing complex. With all the construction going on around town, one might wonder about the need for more housing, pro or con.
Morris doesn’t feel Rolla is overbuilt, which would agree with the housing shortage trend nation-wide. “We felt this was a part of the market that was underserved,” he said. “I think there’s opportunities at all levels and our niche is someone who wants this type of brand new, secure and safe community.”
Boyce says they did their homework of existing occupancy, a needs assessment, and said it checked out. “We also saw a need for something of this magnitude of quality, which we didn’t feel existed in the area,” he explained.
Both said the proximity to the university, the hospital and Delbert Day Cancer Center all came into play for making a sound decision on making The Lofts of Rolla a reality.

“One of the things we’re most proud about is—we’re making a significant investment in Rolla—but it’s something we’re proud to put our names on,”noted Morris.