At a Glance
New construction and restoration of residences and grant writing for affordable housing
On May 22, 2011, the seventh deadliest tornado in US history cut a quarter-mile-wide, 7-mile-long path through Joplin, MO. The aftermath: 161 deaths, roughly 8,000 homes destroyed, and an estimated $2.8 billion in damages.
The storm’s severity impacted the entire Joplin population, including 46-year-old long-time resident Mike Williams, who received word that his brother’s home was destroyed and that several of his friends had been killed. “[The tornado] affected me personally,” the long-time grant writer and owner of Gateway Building & Restorations, LLC says. “It did a lot more than blow away houses.”
Williams was inspired to take action and help with cleanup by focusing on his craft: new construction. By forming Gateway-Altura Development Company LLC with Dallas-based Altura Homes, Williams has since drafted and submitted three proposals to the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) for the construction of 110 new residential units. He’s hoping to begin construction soon because of his local knowledge and Altura’s financial stability.
“After the tornado ravaged the community, it made sense to partner with a large company in order to make the most impact,” Williams says. “Without [Altura’s] strength and buying power, it would have been impossible to obtain that many units on my own.” Rather than dictate the rebuilding process, Altura made a point of teaming with Gateway so that the local contractor could “Joplinize” Altura by advising it on where to build and how to build while also detailing what residents would want in their floor plans.
As a volunteer on the community advisory board to the city council, Williams had listened to significant input regarding community rebuilding, and his specialized knowledge of area construction made him the perfect partner for Altura. “The building techniques are different in Texas and Missouri,” he says. “We’re quite a bit further north, and our soil is different.”
According to Williams, the community rebuilding process has been lengthy; removal of debris wasn’t even completed until close to the end of 2011. Gateway-Altura submitted the proposals for 110 new residential units to the MHDC in mid-October, and the joint companies were still waiting, as of publication of this article, to find out whether they would obtain the necessary funding for construction. Once the proposals are approved, Williams anticipates building 50 homes at once, quite a feat for a company of 12–15 employees. “It sounds like [Gateway is] a dinky company, but when you put 30 subs on the ground, you can get a lot done,” he says.
Aside from the 110 proposed units, several investors looking to rebuild whole subdivisions and smaller investors who need two or three rentals rebuilt have also contacted Williams. And a number of single families looking for a local contractor to build them each a new home have reached out as well. “We’ll do anything in our power to rebuild my community,” Williams says.
While Gateway-Altura is helping to rebuild Joplin, Gateway itself continues to make additional contributions to the surrounding community. For instance, in early October of 2011, the contractor completed southwest Missouri’s first affordable-housing project certified by the NAHB’s National Green Building Certification Program.
The $1.2 million project involved the construction of six 2,300-square-foot units in Webb City, which neighbors the north side of Joplin. The three-duplex project achieved bronze-level certification thanks to solar-assisted hot-water heaters in each unit and a 3’ x 5’ solar panel on the roof. Also, to increase each unit’s energy efficiency, Gateway brought the heat and air-trunk lines into the conditioned space rather than installing them in the attic.
Whether rebuilding homes in the wake of a devastating tornado or building sustainably sound units, Williams is committed to positively impacting his community. And, likely thanks in part to his firm’s work, Joplin will eventually heal. ABQ