By Amy Geiszler-Jones - Photography by Aaron Patton
On their first date a couple of years ago, Abby Nelson told Brady Sherman about a little idea she had.
The idea has since turned into a major venture, bolstered by Nelson’s design talents and Sherman’s entrepreneurial acumen.
Nelson, who currently designs workspaces for Koch Industries, and Sherman, who heads up several entrepreneurial ventures, are the big dreamers of a new tiny home community happening at Harry and East 143rd streets in southeast Wichita.
Called microMansions, their concept is to provide stylishly designed homes that have small physical and energy footprints, cost less than renting an apartment, and include features of larger, luxury homes, like quartz countertops, full-sized appliances, hardwood floors, walk-in showers and even a garage.
“As our engineer says, it’s like a normal house, it’s just smaller,” said Nelson.
The concept taps into some ideals that are important to not only young professionals like Nelson and Sherman but retired folks as well: the desire to live a minimalist lifestyle and have time and money to spend on experiences rather than things and a social awareness of sustainable products.
“We like to travel and do things and we know others do, too,” said Nelson.
All of the homes will be built with structural insulated panels or SIPs that are highly energy efficient and require smaller heating and cooling systems, Sherman explained. The use of SIPs also reportedly results in less job-site waste.
Tired of paying rent and wanting to find a house no larger than the current apartment she still rents in Derby, Nelson started thinking about building a tiny home more than two years ago. With the right size, as she puts it, she figured she could own her own home and pay about the same or even less than she did renting. She thought other folks might like that same option. She shared her idea with Sherman, whom she met at Koch Industries when he was working there as a business analyst, on their first date.
With an interior design degree from Pittsburg State University and five years of experience working at Crossland Construction, Nelson developed the five floor plans that buyers can choose chose from. The designs range in sizes from 414 to 560 square feet, with two of the five plans accommodating a second bedroom. One home is ADA compliant. Another features a second-story deck. Home prices start at about $75,000.
After purchasing the land, getting a builder (Kraus Construction) and working with city planners, the couple has been covering even more ground this year for their tiny home community. They did media interviews and a 1 Million Cups Wichita presentation about their startup, rolled out a website to gauge interest and announced the exact location of the development June 1 on the microMansions Facebook page.
The idea certainly has generated a lot of interest. More than 500 people have submitted online requests for more information, and about 30 have expressed an interest in purchasing property, the pair said. Once a prospective buyer has selected a floor plan and a lot, a $1,000 deposit secures a spot in the community, which will have 90 lots.
“It’s something new and hip so it has attracted a lot of people,” said Nelson, who noted their concept has gotten interest from other developers and other communities.
“Plus it’s a high-quality product,” added Sherman.
Since city utilities still need to be run to the development, the couple anticipates it will be a few more months before construction begins on the first microMansions model home. The couple plans to host an open house/block party once the first model home is completed in early 2019.
Homeowners will receive additional amenities, such as a trial period of free cleaning services and a lawn service to take care of the approximate .1 acre lot. The couple is trying to simplify the home-ownership process, as well, by providing free move-in services. They’ll even sell a house with furnishings, for those who want even less hassle.