Housing complex built in a day

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South Hill residents may have been shocked to see a finished apartment building in their neighbourhood that was not there earlier that morning.

Sunflower Manor, located at 651 - 4th Ave. SW, consists of six units and had its official grand opening on June 23. 

Sunflower Manor was put together in a day, like Lego blocks, stacked on top of each other forming a perfect puzzle.It took seven hours to put together Moose Jaw’s first multi-family modular unit by combining nine pre-built units to create six apartments.

“I sort of joke that all we had to do was plug in the toaster, but it wasn’t quite that simple,” said Deb Thorn, co-founder with her two daughters of Sunflower Developments Inc., who helped bring this project to Moose Jaw along with the city and provincial and federal governments.

The nine units were built in a plant in Winnipeg, by Winkler Construction, under a roof so workers didn’t have to worry about weather conditions.

“If you’re a small business and company like mine you can not get the trades and workers to do the work,” said Thorn. “So if you buy the product out of a plant it’s all ready to go and the electrical is already in, and the plumbing is in, and you just basically do your ground work.”

On Oct. 16, 2013, with the foundation already put in place at 651 4th Ave. SW, 30 crane, ground, and truck crews got to work to piece together the units. At 10 a.m. the first unit was lifted onto the foundation and at 5 p.m., they put the last unit into place. Families moved into their new homes right before Christmas.

“It was a very complex project in the sense that I wanted to keep all the trees on the property. The crane operators were incredible to watch. They literally had inches of maneuvering room. Some units would be 30 or 40 feet in the air and they’d have to set them into place.”

Different straps connect the units together. They are like Lego pieces snapping together, with traps that keep the units tight, rigid and aligned.

Thorn ordered the unit with the exterior unfinished so that she could add her personal touch, like an oversized deck and stone work.

“Projects that started before us are still being constructed to this day. Where I’ve been in business since December.”

There are multi-modular homes in Regina, but this is Moose Jaw’s first. However, Thorn says more multi-modular-homes will be coming soon near Sobeys.

So far, families have already moved in and out of Sunflower Manor, making Thorn pleased with her decision to modular-build instead of stick-build.

“All families are happy. My business plan was to provide rental housing. People are going to be moving on with jobs.

“Families are already moving in and out. If you’re going to do something like this, do it well and that’s kind of where we’re at. I put my heart and soul into this.”

Mickey Djuric can be reached at 306-691-1263 @Mickey_MJTimes 

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Deb Thorn wears many hats: mother, wife, business-owner, economic developer and community advocate.

In 2010 she started Sunflower Developments Inc. with her two daughters Jami and Lonni Thorn.

“It’s something we’re quite passionate about,” said Thorn. “We wanted to build really good quality homes for families so that’s why we’re participating in the affordable home ownership program.”

In 2012, Thorn and her two daughters started thinking up ideas for Sunflower Manor, to help bring affordable housing to Moose Jaw residents.

“Sunflower Manor is one of our first projects done under the company we’ve set up. One of the nicest things that has happened was meeting all these great people who have helped up. They’re wonderful,” said Thorn.

“It’s great and makes me so happy to be a part of these six families on their journey. Hopefully one day they’ll own their own home. In the meantime they have a really nice place to live and call home.”

Deb Thorn has been involved in other projects around the community, like helping bring Temple Gardens Mineral Spa into Moose Jaw. She also hopes to see more future affordable housing projects open up within the community.

— Djuric

Organizations: Sunflower Developments, Winkler Construction, Sobeys

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Winnipeg, Regina

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