Architect makes plans out westCity leaders here knew right away that Dean Dovolis was different than the 417 developers who came before him. For one thing, he wasn’t a developer. Not yet anyway.
By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
STANLEY, N.D. – City leaders here knew right away that Dean Dovolis was different than the 417 developers who came before him.
For one thing, he wasn’t a developer. Not yet anyway.
Dovolis was a Minneapolis architect who heard about North Dakota’s oil boom at a time when the economy elsewhere was struggling.
He also had a Harvard degree in urban design, financial backing from investors and a vision for creating communities.
“I could tell in the first few minutes that he had a spark of brilliance,” said Stanley City Council member Dennis Lindahl.
Today, Dovolis’ company Annabelle Homes has three housing developments under construction and plans to expand to numerous other communities affected by the oil boom.
It all started in November 2010 when Dovolis drove through the night to check out Oil Country for himself.
He stopped at Joe’s Pizza in Stanley around noon that day and met with Lindahl based on a recommendation from friends.
Lindahl, who owned the pizza shop at the time, gave Dovolis a pizza delivery map of Stanley and told him to sketch a proposal for a parcel of city-owned land.
Lindahl liked what he saw and asked Dovolis to bring his plan before the city council that night.
“I told the council: I don’t care who you pick as the developer or what you do, but you need to do something,” Dovolis recalled. “And you can’t just keep sticking houses in a cul-de-sac. You can really make a contribution and change the direction of the city.”
The council selected his plan, and Dovolis formed Annabelle Homes (named for his wife, Anna) with friends and family who invested in the project.
The city agreed to give Annabelle Homes the land, and in exchange the company would take care of the water, sewer, streets and parks, a cost of $1.4 million. Annabelle also makes monthly contributions to emergency service providers to offset the city’s expenses while the homes are not generating property taxes.
The 15-acre development has 23 single-family homes, 26 town homes, a two-story office building and a two-story convenience store and office building.
In a landscape of steel buildings, man camps and RV parks, the Annabelle development provides a neighborhood feel with varied styles of homes and premium finishes on the commercial buildings.
Many of the homes are already occupied, and work on the others will be completed soon. The town homes cost $129,700 and the houses range from $225,000 to $350,000, with no special assessments.
The new development will give Stanley a “front door” and give people a reason to stop, said Lindahl, the city council member.
The first project also spurred development on two other pieces of property in town, Lindahl said.
“Lots of folks didn’t have interest in Stanley until this happened,” he said.
Stanley officials made an arrangement with Annabelle for another 40 acres under construction now that will have commercial buildings as well as housing.
Dovolis gained a reputation from his work in Stanley and soon other cities began to call.
He now has a 90-acre development under construction in Tioga.
Tioga Mayor Nathan Germundson said the city has seen an influx of new residents, but most of them are men because they can’t find suitable housing to bring their families.
“We really hope when the construction starts that we get families moving here,” Germundson said. “That’s what really grows your community.”
Dovolis continues to live in the Twin Cities and operates his firm, DJR Architecture. He drives to North Dakota weekly, sleeping in a model home in Stanley. A potential buyer called about that home last week, so he expects to do what he did in the beginning – sleep in an RV and walk across the highway to shower at Cenex.
His next developments are in Kenmare, Columbus, Hazen and Beulah. Dovolis has a map with circles around numerous other cities that have contacted him, now stretching into Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Canada.
Dovolis anticipates Annabelle Homes will be working in North Dakota for 20 years.
“I look at these developments as the beginning of the transformation of western North Dakota,” Dovolis said. “What may happen if this is done right is you can create a very powerful, diverse economy.”
Amy Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch.