Oak Ridge Opens in Phoenix Where Bear Lake Estates Burned in Almeda Fire

Now Open

By Tony Bloom for the Rogue Valley Times (May 23, 2023)

Two couples who lost homes in the Almeda Fire are among the first occupants of Oak Ridge, the largest manufactured home park in Phoenix, which has opened its first phase. All 210 homes were destroyed in the fire when the park was Bear Lake Estates.

A grand opening event was held at the park’s community center Thursday, with park corporation and city officials cutting a ribbon to commemorate the reopening. The park has 25 homes at present, but not all are occupied.

Jason and Fabiola Monroe were the first occupants of the park when they moved in April 12. He said it was no joke when they closed on the property April 1.

“We lost everything in the fire,” said Jason. “We are lucky we are here now. We just wanted to get back to our area.”

The couple had lived in Talent for six years in a rental. They spent the first night after fleeing in a Walmart parking lot. After temporary accommodations, they rented in White City, which meant driving their daughter to school in Talent. Now they are just a six-minute drive from their new home.

“We got a brand-new home,” said Fabiola. They looked at pre-existing housing, but everything in their price range needed work, she said. She also loves the location.

Craig Gallagher and his fiancée, Mckayla Weston, moved in May 12. They had lived in Rogue Mobile Village north of Phoenix, which burned. They were excited to return to their hometown after living in a hotel, FEMA accommodations and then an apartment.

“We had been thinking about this for almost a year. It’s clean, it’s homey, everyone is friendly,” said Mckayla. The couple haven’t had many opportunities to meet their neighbors, but think the heat might be keeping people indoors.

Unlike other parks the couple looked at, Oak Ridge will allow 
Craig to park the utility trailer he uses in his landscaping business at their site. Mckayla said she appreciates the absence of brush near the homes. She said she felt uncomfortable when looking at another park that had an adjacent field of weeds.

“We are absolutely elated to be able to rebuild and provide housing for this community,” said Tanya Vidaurri, vice president of property management for Investment Property Group, which owns Oak Ridge.

“It’s a community within a community,” said Phoenix City Manager Eric Swanson. The day after the fire, IPG sent an email asking what they could do to bring back the park, he recalled. IPG has spent a little less than $7 million to open the first phases of the park, said Amber Monte, managing director, in an email response to questions. A five- to seven-year timeline, depending on market conditions, is foreseen to get the 39-acre site to full occupancy, she said.

Oak Ridge is an all-ages facility. As Bear Lake, it had been a senior living community. “Due to the need for housing in the marketplace, we felt it important to open our community to all ages,” said Monte.

At present, none of the displaced homeowners have returned to the park, although there is one potential returnee, Monte wrote.

When finished, the site will have 210 homes. Installation of curbs, paving, fencing and landscaping were completed earlier this spring to wrap up the first phase. A berm and fence were placed on the eastern edge of the park to reduce noise from adjacent Interstate 5.

Oak Ridge offers 3- and 4-bedroom homes starting at $204,900. The floor plans range from 1,330 to 1,620 square feet and include full kitchen appliance packages, laundry rooms, carpet and vinyl flooring. The homes are manufactured by Fleetwood and Skyline. Space rent is $699 per month.

After the ceremony, participants had an opportunity to tour model homes and meet with park personnel.

The brand-new community clubhouse includes a kitchen, a gathering space, a fitness center with workout equipment and offices. The park also includes an outdoor pool, a spa, dog park and walking paths.

Bear Lake Estates was the first manufactured home park in Jackson County to be cleaned up by a government-run program funded by the state of Oregon and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That work was finished in February 2021.

The fire burned manufactured homes on 1,499 spaces in 20 local parks in Jackson County. Nearly 2,500 residences were lost in all.

Within Phoenix, 284 manufactured homes were destroyed. In early April, permits have been issued to replace 84 of those homes, 30%. In contrast, permits have been issued for 115 of 116 single-family residences lost in the fire. Permits have also been issued for 142 of 153 multi-family dwelling units, or 93%.

IPG is a private real estate investment and management company based in Park City, Utah, with offices in California, Minnesota and Oregon. It owns and operates more than 150 manufactured home, multi-family and RV communities throughout the United States.

Read the original article by Tony Bloom for the Rogue Valley Times (May 23, 2023):