Thompson Place is an indieDwell development in McCall that was supposed to be complete last summer, then in winter, then this spring.
A year has passed since the building was supposed to be move-in ready and units still need to be installed, and residents say they are living in their condos with some major faults still unaddressed.
Idaho-based company indieDwell earned media coverage for its innovative construction of affordable housing built-out of shipping containers in recent years. But, new regulations threw the company for a loop earlier this year, and its former factory in Caldwell is now closed. Earlier this week, BoiseDev reported the company landed new investors and is “rapidly hiring” in Idaho and Colorado.
But, despite the influx of cash and manufacturing facility out-of-state, Thompson Place residents have questions about the company’s reliability.
Anthony Henry and his wife are two residents of the twelve-unit project who are paying a mortgage at Thompson Place. Henry and his wife finally moved into their new condo in May after living in their camper, waiting for the condos to be done. The couple is still fighting with indieDwell to finish the work on their unit.
“(They said) ‘Hey, it’s going to get siding,’ (it) didn’t get siding. ‘Hey, it’s going get roofed,’ (it) didn’t get roofed. And so we went full-on in the snow season without a roof,” he said. “Anyway, that’s kind of been the journey of indieDwell. There’s been so many hands involved in it, and nothing that they promised or said actually ever happened.”
IndieDwell Executive Chairman Pete Gombert said they have been working with the tenants to fix the problems but have run into their own issues with COVID-19 impacting how they get work done.
“The project was delayed well over a year because we didn’t have foundations installed, and then we had to do the install during the pandemic,” Gombert said. “Which was not only problematic from a resource perspective, having the staff necessary because of hiring during COVID, and actually operating during COVID, but it also made a problematic because the materials pricing was severely escalated. So we ended up losing several hundred thousand dollars on the project. And we have been out there several times.”
Henry and other tenants are still dealing with these problems almost six months after moving in, according to an email chain to the developer forwarded to BoiseDev. Two weeks ago, indieDwell said they would send someone down to paint some exterior surfaces. Nobody came. Henry said he was told the same thing this week. Again, he said nobody came.
“There’s nobody here again,” he said. “So now we’re going to get into these freezing temps where the painters are done up here the second week of October. So now we’re going to go the whole season with exposed siding, edges, and trim, and things like that. Things aren’t caulked, there’s house wrap showing. That’s kind of been the journey, but ultimately we’ve had some pretty significant warranty issues with doors that won’t shut and appliances that never worked, things like that on the inside.”
BoiseDev reported in May that the company’s factory in Caldwell paused work and laid off 61 employees. The factory remains closed, and indieDwell has yet to announce if the closure is permanent or not. However, the company operates a 100,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Pueblo, Colorado, and has announced plans for a factory in Southeastern Virginia.
Tenants of the apartment showed BoiseDev an October 1 email from indieDwell co-founder Scott Flynn sharing news of his resignation from the company. He did not return a phone call requesting an interview.
Henry said he has seen many indieDwell workers come and go. He recently talked to an employee working on his unit who told him the Caldwell employees were all out of a job on October 15. The Thompson Place complex still has units that need to be built, Henry said.
“‘I thought you guys were retooling your factory for these mountain-specific modular homes?,'” Henry asked the indieDwell employee. “He goes, ‘yeah, not here, they’re going to build them out of Colorado.’ I said, well, ‘(Our developer) still believes that you’re going to build a fourth unit, that’s the whole shtick.’ And he says, ‘Well, we still can, we’ll just build them out of Colorado and haul them over here.'”
Gombert refutes the October 15 layoff claim.
Some issues are under warranty, such as when tenants had problems with their dishwasher, drains, and showers. Because these homes are made of metal, some of the issues Henry is dealing with are much trickier to fix.
“They measured (our door) incorrectly in the factory, and so when they came out here to install them, the door seams didn’t match up,” he said. “And so there wasn’t enough space to put wood in the trim out the doors, and so they just glued, plastic MDF stuff to make a door casing. Well, then the doors wouldn’t shut… It’s bumping by half an inch at the top, So they shave the door down, which is a noticeable curve to make it fit well. It’s still too tight and rubbing, and so that’s all flaking apart. The doors are flaking apart.”
Henry also said the metal for their railing is raw and rusting.
Despite delays and the pandemic, Gombert said indieDwell is ‘committed to finishing Thompson Place.
“We’re committed to finishing the project and handling all the warranty claims that exist,” he said. “I know they are frustrated, just like many, many people dealing with construction over the past 18 months. It’s been a really, really challenging environment. We’re continuing to do everything that we can to make sure that what they’re dealing with is taken care of as quickly as possible.”