41st Annual Parade of Homes for the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association starts on Saturday, June 13th and ends June 20th. Heartland Contractor has two homes in the event located in Altoona, WI at the Hillcrest Greens.

For more information on dates and times, please visit http://www.cvhomebuilders.com/events/2015-41st-annual-parade-of-homes or visit their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cvhba

Multiphase housing development with a community theme is rising on the site of the former Hillcrest Golf & Country Club in Altoona

posted: March 29. 2015 12:00a CST

by / Elizabeth Dohms Leader-Telegram staff

Larry and Dale Cornell fondly remember their long-ago days at Hillcrest Golf & Country Club in Altoona, where nearly 60 years ago they spent summers at the private course working as caddies for some of the Eau Claire area’s most prominent residents.

Larry, 72, and Dale, 71, eventually married and lived in Eau Claire and Fall Creek, but they could spend their twilight years catching the same smoky scent of Hillcrest’s oak trees and stepping on the same greens that were once kept trim with horse-drawn mowers.

Now, however, the scene won’t be quite as green, as the former 18-hole course — located along U.S. 12 just east of Eau Claire — is being converted into a housing development called Hillcrest Greens with a variety of options for everyone from young families to senior citizens.

“What we’re hoping to have within the development is a community or neighborhood where people can rotate through as they grow,” said Bill Albright, vice president of Heartland Contractors, a company owned by Jim and Jennifer Rooney.

Rooney Properties bought the land for $1 million in 2012 after the bank foreclosed on the golf course. Albright said the property already is worth about $25 million.

The 178-acre site will be developed in at least two phases, Albright said. The first phase is under way and includes 90 single-family lots, about five of which have spec homes built on them. Prospective homeowners can buy lots and hire their builders of choice to construct their homes, as long as the designs are approved by the development’s architectural committee.

The project’s first phase also will include 20 bay homes owned by residents who live there, but yards and driveways will be maintained as common spaces paid for by monthly dues, said Paul Canfield, the ReMax agent for Hillcrest Greens.

The site also will be home to The Classic, a four-section building on the far west side of the campus that will be devoted to senior citizen housing, with space for independent and assisted living apartments as well as memory care.

Natalie Robarge, sales and marketing manager for The Classic, told more than 100 attendees of an informational meeting Wednesday that a nearby park would provide many options for grandchildren when they visit.

“It’s a nice way to entertain the whole family,” she told the group.

That park is 65 acres of Otter Creek frontage property that has been donated to the city of Altoona for a public park, Albright said. Within that space, Heartland spent about $100,000 installing a pavilion, a playground, and basketball and pickleball courts.

“We got feedback from the community about how they walked through there or golfed, and we wanted to be able to give back to the community on a good portion of that,” Albright said.

The Classic

Jim and Robin Underwood of Fall Creek attended Wednesday’s meeting to explore the options offered at The Classic. Jim Underwood said he would miss the 80 acres of land he currently owns. But eventually he and his wife will have to move from their current home, he said.

“It’s just a fact of life,” he said of getting older and becoming less independent. “I want to be as informed as possible.”

Of the 99 apartments within The Classic, 36 comprise a secured memory care center, leaving open 63 apartments for people interested in individual and assisted living arrangements. The units range in size from 480 to 1,170 square feet.

The main entrance to The Classic provides access to a general store that would include necessities such as toiletries, milk and bread; a community room; a bistro and a restaurant; and an outdoor patio with a fire pit.

Two wings jut out from the main entrance into the assisted and independent living apartments. People living there will reside together on four floors. Any additional care requests are a la carte; residents can purchase those care levels as needed.

“They don’t have to move out of their apartment. Instead, the caregivers come to them,” said Jamie Smith, executive director of The Classic who is an employee of Ecumen, a Minnesota-based management company hired to provide services for older adults.

Even therapy sessions can be contracted to take place in the home “to avoid removing people from the apartment so they can keep living in their homes,” Smith said.

Smith said residents who develop forms of dementia could be moved into the memory care center that will be locked down to prevent residents from leaving unattended. The layout would benefit residents with memory ailments who would already be familiar with the layout of Hillcrest Greens, Smith said.

Construction is about 80 percent completed, Albright said, adding that the center should be ready for inspections by June 1, with a move-in date of July 1. Smith said six to 10 reservations for apartments in the center were expected by Friday.

Prices vary depending on number of bedrooms, occupants and services. The lowest-cost rooms start at $2,250 per month for an independent living studio apartment, which includes all utilities, wireless Internet and cable, a full kitchen, and one meal a day. Assisted living rooms start at $3,600 per month, and memory care apartments cost, at their lowest, $4,650 per month. A second occupant costs $450 per month in the independent living apartments.

“We priced ourselves competitively,” Robarge said, noting some units already have been rented.

Hillcrest Greens

A few houses have popped up along the edges of some of the site’s cul-de-sacs and streets within the Hillcrest Greens community that are named for famous golf courses. Most lots remain vacant, however.

Of the five bay homes on the site’s northeastern side, two are still for sale.

Mary Ann Selvig, 69, owns one of the bay homes that overlooks the outer edge of the former golf course. Each morning the sun peeks through the windows that completely encircle her living and dining room.

The covered porch, access to trails and segmented housing units all were major factors in Selvig’s decision to buy the home, which includes a 5-foot radius around the house.

“My grandson brings his basketball over and plays on the court,” she said.

One of the bay homes and single-family homes will be open during the Parade of Homes tour this year, and most of the available homes are scheduled for open houses from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Albright said about 14 acres are set aside for future phases that may include the construction of multiplexes, but that decision is still up in the air. Phase two and beyond will expand construction east to Highway A.

“We want to appeal to the masses instead of segregating out a portion of the community,” Albright said. “The more people we can appeal to, the better off the neighborhood will be. That’s how we tried to design it — all inclusive and all to grow with the individual.”

Dohms can be reached at 715-833-9206 or elizabeth.dohms@ecpc.com.

By Leader-Telegram staff

CHIPPEWA FALLS -- Chippewa Falls parks director Dick Hebert announced Friday that the Irvine Park zoo project has reached its $3.25 million goal.

Construction on the new 13,500-square-foot building, which will include a welcome center, small animals wing and aviary, will begin in September and should be complete by Memorial Day in 2016.

While the goal has been reached, Hebert urged the public to continue giving, noting that the capital campaign only covered construction costs, and doesn't include money for furniture and fixtures.

The current small animals building was constructed in 1914 and rebuilt in 1962. Sightlines to the animals are difficult, and they stay inside during the winter months. The cages are aging, and it is considered a challenge to safely move animals for daily and veterinary care.

The new building will have better viewing and will be open all year, and will have larger, improved exhibit space for animals like monkeys, lemurs, porcupines, birds, foxes, and coatimundi that live in the zoo.

Prepping for Winter Fest

Hunter Julson of Heartland Construction in Chippewa Falls clears snow from the ice off a broomball rink on Lake Altoona on Wednesday while a tent was erected in the background. The work was in preparation for the Northwest Wisconsin Winter Fest and Games, which take place Friday through Sunday.

The entrance to downtown Chippewa Falls will be changing again after the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors on Friday approved plans for a new chamber building.

The 5,000 square-foot building will be on the corner of Bridge and Spring streets, and is to be done in the first quarter of 2015.
“The chamber is excited about the opportunity to be part of the revitalization of the downtown riverfront,” said Bill Mercer, chairman of the chamber’s board.

“We have ambitious plans for our new home. Behind the beautiful glass vestibule, there will be a world-class visitor center with state-of-the-art technology, along with our staff offices and meeting rooms.”

The first floor will have about 3,500 square feet for the visitor’s center and chamber offices. The mezzanine, with space for meetings and offices, will be another 1,500 square feet.

“When you walk into this facility, the visitors center will be a two-story high ceiling room,” said Mike Jordan, president of the chamber.

“We really wanted something to wow people.”

Jordan said the chamber has worked for 1 ½ years on the project. “We wanted a location that would be best, as far as visitors are concerned,” he said.

The Chamber building will be among the first visitors will see when entering downtown. The new building will be on the site of the former O’Connor’s Bar, which hasn’t been used since a fire in 2002. It will be across Bridge Street from the new SEH building.

Jordan said the new location will still draw traffic from both Business 53 and Business 29.

The chamber will continue to use its current offices at 10 S. Bridge St. until the new building, designed by CBS Squared, Inc. of Chippewa Falls, opens. After the move, the city plans on tearing down the current chamber building as part of plans for a new riverfront park.

“Since 2007, the city has been working on the redevelopment of the downtown riverfront area. I see the chamber and visitors center relocation as the next step in a process that will further enhance the new entrance into downtown,” Mayor Greg Hoffman said.

Heartland Contractors will be the general contractor on the chamber project.

“We’re excited and can’t wait to get started,” Jordan said.

Jenni Berg wants to get students thinking about the future.

Berg is in her first year as a school counselor for Holy Ghost and St. Charles schools. Her emphasis this year is on goals and getting students thinking about how everyday decisions can impact them looking forward.

In collaboration with other McDonell Area Catholic School administrators, Berg planned the first annual Career Day on Thursday that brought together fifth-grade students from Holy Ghost, and sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Notre Dame.

“That is a great time for students to explore career interests, rather than waiting until high school to begin thinking about different career paths they are interested in,” Berg said.

The idea for the career fair came after Berg discovered that the guidance curriculum was lacking in career education.

“High school is really ‘too late’ in the game, because there are things students can do to begin preparing for, learning about and discovering different career possibilities from an early age and we hoped to shine a light on some of those opportunities,” Berg said.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education reorganized 79 careers into 16 different clusters. For example, instead of separating doctor and nurse, the two are now subcategories of the cluster “Health Science.”

“(It) provides students interested in the area of health a host of career opportunities,” Berg said. “Therefore, this approach helps broaden their understanding of all the career opportunities available to them.”

Berg said this helps expose students to other careers that, although in the same field, require different skills and levels of education.

Students were first tested to determine their top three career clusters.

On Thursday, speakers representing all 16 clusters gave presentations three separate times to different students as they rotated to each of their top three clusters.

Berg said she found the students to be engaged and appreciative of the experience.

“I even had one of my fifth-grade students, who wants to be a writer, come up and thank me for allowing her the opportunity to sit in on a session where she was able to listen to a published author,” Berg said.

By Liam Marlaire Leader-Telegram staff

For residents of Eau Claire living in a recently built multifamily home or duplex, chances are it was a Heartland Contractors project.

The Lake Hallie company accounted for 245 of 479 building permits - or about 51 percent - issued in the two categories in Eau Claire from 2011 through 2013. Heartland currently has about 1,500 housing units in development in four neighborhood projects: Prairie Park in Eau Claire, Hillcrest Greens in Altoona, Whisper Ridge in Menomonie and Willow Creek in Chippewa Falls.

All four developments boast water features and significant green space. The designs testify to a passion for the outdoors shared by Jim Rooney, Heartland president and CEO, and Vice President Bill Albright.

"We try to create neighborhoods that exemplify the beauty of Wisconsin," said Rooney, whose company has built more than 400 homes in the region since 2011. 

Hillcrest Greens - at the site of the former Hillcrest Golf & Country Club - will feature acres of park space, miles of biking and walking trails, ponds with fountains and 6,000 feet of Otter Creek frontage. Amenities include playground equipment, a pavilion, pickle ball court, basketball court and a putting and chipping green. 

Five houses are under construction at Hillcrest, and Rooney said the development will feature a couple of Parade homes.

"There's been a lot of interest and traffic," Albright said of the development.

Heartland also expects Metro Crossing, an 84-unit facility on the southwest side of Eau Claire, to be full when it officially opens June 1.

"The real estate bubble had a big impact on how we did business," said Rooney, who said there was a push toward building multifamily homes during the real estate market's downturn. "Now it's back to single family."

Rooney, whose company also handles commercial construction, said a senior campus at Hillcrest already has drawn interest.

"Looking into the future," he said, "we see a lot of opportunities in the health care and senior sectors.

"We've been able to change paths over the years, and that's kept us rolling."

The company added 10 employees last year and now has a staff of about 30 in addition to subcontractors. With miles of sidewalk and acres of green space to maintain, a separate lawn care and snow removal company was created. Stephen Ketelboeter, who worked at Hillcrest when it was a golf course, joined Rooney as parks and lawn care manager.

Rooney spun off an excavating business for that side of the operation.

Flow also is a key consideration in Heartland's developments. Albright and Rooney put an emphasis on how pedestrians will be able to connect in a given neighborhood.

"One of our most proud accomplishments is the number of unique neighborhoods around the Chippewa Valley," Rooney said. 

The business also is a family affair. Rooney's wife, Jennifer, provides design expertise for the company's ballooning roster of properties. Jim Rooney went to keep Heartland Contractors building homes in the Chippewa Valley for the next 20 years, Rooney said the business will look into "good opportunities in other parts of the country."

"We always want to have an open mind and look at opportunities that come up," Albright said.

Marlaire can be reached at liam.marlaire@ecpc.com.

It's here!  Hillcrest Greens (formerly Hillcrest Golf and Country Club) is having a Grand Opening.

Heartland Contractors of Lake Hallie is a northwoods builder. That descriptor is as much a matter of attitude as latitude. 

Jim Rooney, the company’s CEO/president, savors the pleasures of the upper half of Wisconsin. As an outdoorsman, he knows its glittering lakes and deep woods. As a developer, he tenders all due affection to our woods and water.

You can see that care in the largest of Heartland’s current projects, the conversion of the historic Hillcrest Golf Course in Altoona, into 220 single-family units, 320 multi-family units, and 9 acres of commercial space enfolded by 73 acres of park and open space. 

It’s a prime site for marbling living space with green space. Since the course dates back to the 1920s, an abundance of old growth trees abound. A trout stream also gurgles across the 178-acre site and a few ponds freckle the greenery with blue. However, Heartland isn’t going to settle for the water that happens to be there.

It’s about water and trees 

“We put effort and money into making our neighborhood special. We do a lot of water features, such as fountains, waterfalls and ponds,” Rooney said. 

“The Hillcrest location is premium. For one thing, it was created in the ‘20s so it has mature trees, and we’ve taken steps to preserve those trees. We had the surveyor mark every mature tree so that we could do our best to preserve as many as possible. It’s got the trout stream and ponds and we’re creating more ponds. In all our developments, we create some sort of water feature. My idea of the north woods is the water and the trees and that’s what we do.”

The Hillcrest development will have 10 ponds and the meandering stream. It will also have an abundance of open space.

“People love open spaces, and even in New York City,” Rooney said. “They don’t go to Central Park because it has the biggest buildings.”

One of Heartland’s primary considerations in developing a site is envisioning how people can best traverse that space.

“We spend a lot of time planning for pedestrian connectivity. We want them to feel that they can enjoy the neighborhood without driving to town or country,” Rooney said.

Bill Albright, Heartland Contractors’ general manager, put it another way.

“We ask ourselves, ‘How will the people in the coming neighborhood best move through it?’”

Prime Site

A developer also has to consider adjacent spaces, and Hillcrest’s adjacent spaces are one of the reasons it’s a prime site.

“My focus is the setting and the neighborhood. You can build a 2,000-square-foot, two-story home, but if it’s not in the right spot, no matter how great it is, it won’t be right,” Rooney said.

“Now we don’t invent the great spot. We locate the land where people want to be. Hillcrest is a half mile from Oakwood Mall. The development of Hillcrest will facilitate the connection of County Highway A and Gateway Drive. That puts Hillcrest a bicycle ride’s distance from Oakwood Mall. It puts people closer to commercial needs. It will be an isolated, park-like neighborhood that’ll be (within) walking distance to the mall.”

This prime site will house people at various life stages.

“Hillcrest is a pretty significant project in the Chippewa Valley. It’s housing for 500 families. The majority is single family, but there’s also seniors and multi-families,” Rooney said. “A key component of Hillcrest is the 100- to 150-unit senior campus. That’s monstrous in and of itself. It will have assisted living, independent living and memory care.”


Seven years ago, Heartland wasn’t building multi-family units. However, with lending and building ever-evolving, Rooney foresaw the rise in popularity of such units and Heartland Contractors evolved.

“You have to be a bit of a fortune teller in developing. Anyone in the single-family home business who didn’t adapt has really struggled, but diversity is a double-edged sword,” Rooney said. “For example, as an investor, you can be diverse to the point where nothing goes good. We’ve tried to be ahead of the trends. Multi-family building nationwide is the big trend today, but we were onto that in 2007.”

“It’s demanding, but you acclimate to it. You have to be diversified and adapt in an ever-changing economy,” Albright said. “You ride the roller coaster and climb the hills as they come. Over the years, we’ve moved from single-family homes to multi-family and commercial.”

Foreseeing the rise in multi-family units and leading the way has kept Heartland beyond busy. It also led to a name change in April, from Heartland Homes & Development to Heartland Contractors, to better reflect all they now do. That includes starting an excavating business this spring.

“We find ourselves building multiple projects of hundred-units plus. We talk about what we’ll do when we grow up, but we’re too busy to tender much time to that. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other,” Rooney said. “Adaptability is the key. You have to recognize the coming trends and be the leader to them rather than the follower.”

The Quality Component

Success in developing isn’t just due to foreseeing the trend of multi-family units. Heartland dots the i and crosses the t when it comes to quality.

“We pick the best material in the price range for the house. We do a lot of research,” Rooney said. He added that quality isn’t limited to materials. He also hires quality people.

“The most important thing is talented help and advisors. We believe our employees are the top half, whether it’s the guy pushing the broom or the CFO. We believe that above-average pay procures above-average talent. That goes for everyone, from architects to site planners. We pay more to get more,” Rooney said. “No one objects to good quality. The key is to give someone a great product. We have to deliver a great product, inside and out.”

In some respects, the formula is simple: Quality components plus quality people equals happy customers.

“Every customer that we’ve dealt with will give us a reference,” Rooney said. “We seek those testimonials because we’re confident. We’re prompt and detailed.”

The Personal Payoff

Heartland Contractors pleases customers, but Rooney and Albright also derive deep satisfaction from developing neighborhoods where people live and raise their children.

“It’s gratifying to drive through the developments we’ve created over the years and see people out walking their dogs on the trails we’ve created.,” Albright said. “We imagined them and made them. I take my family and even my out-of-town family to see them. It feels great. It’s very gratifying. Building is a huge part of my life. It’s great to let your family see why you’re taking your phone calls and what you’re doing.”

Rooney especially enjoys enfolding nature into living spaces.

“I’m most fond of creating the outdoor space where people live,” he said. “I love to visualize it before and witness it afterwards, where we’re incorporating nature into residential areas.”

And Albright enjoys the very process.

“There are a lot of people and trades involved. I love the coordination,” he said. “I’ve always been a coach, so I love turning individuals into a team.”

The Heart of Heartland

However, it all begins with developing, with seeing a site and foreseeing what it can be, and that’s Rooney’s forte.

“I’m on the development side and not so much on the operational side of the building process. I’m looking for where to build and what to build,” he said.

Rooney develops the idea and Albright implements it.

“We meet and discuss our developments,” Albright said. “We formulate a game plan and then it gets turned loose into getting it done, and that’s where I come in.”

For Rooney, it’s also a family affair.

“We started in 2004,” he said. “My wife, Jennifer, is involved. We got into developing in the 1990s. We did some homebuilding and hired other contractors. The natural evolution was to build our own homes.”

However, integrating woods and water into the building of single-family homes, multi-family homes and commercial spaces is the heart of Heartland, and that is especially true of their development at Hillcrest. A majority of the open space associated with that project will eventually be deeded to the city of Altoona.

Those 65 acres will one day belong to the people of Altoona. Such a move reflects the importance Heartland places on nature, and its emphasis on preserving elements of the northwoods.

Katie McKy is a freelance writer from Eau Claire. This article was originally printed in the Chippewa Valley Business Report.  View the original article here.

Heartland Contractors Inc. is pleased to announce the promotion of Bill Albright to Vice President. He previously held the position of General Manager.

Bill has been with the company since its formation in 2004 and has been instrumental in the company's evolution from a single family home builder to a full service residential and commercial building and development company.