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City outskirts are now prime real estate for families building new homes

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Attracted to the slower pace of life, families with young children are often choosing now to build houses on the outskirts of the city along the outer stretches of Ives, Holcomb and Gotham streets.

Builders said Wednesday that a 3-mile stretch of Ives Street Road — south from Immaculate Heart Central School to the intersection with Route 232 — has become an increasingly popular area for families to build homes over the past five years. Houses continue to be built on vacant parcels, which are swamped with “for sale” signs that list phone numbers of real estate agents.

A construction crew was busy framing a custom-built two-story house Wednesday morning on Ives Street Road, about a quarter-mile south of the Holcomb Street intersection. DP Builders, Chaumont, has been building the house since August and plans to complete the job this fall, said Dylan M. Piche, who owns the small construction firm. The three-bedroom house is being built for a Watertown couple with two teenage daughters.

“They decided to move here because it’s outside the city and away from the hustle and bustle,” said Mr. Piche, who said he thinks houses will continue to be built in the neighborhood. He said he hopes this project will lure to the business more families who are interested in building houses.

“I think more people are now interested in moving outside the city, and I think Ives Street is going to continue to be popular,” Mr. Piche said.

Located about a half-mile outside the city limits, this house will receive sewer service from the town of Watertown, Mr. Piche said. Because the house is within a privately owned water district — commonly called the Lettiere Tract — the owner will buy water directly from Southside Water Inc., Clayton. Owned by James V. Lettiere Jr., the company charges households within the district an average of about $1,000 a year. Quarterly rates paid by the 108 households in the district are based on the cost of buying water from the city of Watertown and operating expenses the company incurs.

Although they pay more for water, homeowners outside the city limits have the benefit of not paying city property taxes.

Signs of construction activity are common in this neighborhood. Farther south near Route 232, a large two-story house with a three-bay garage is being built at 18511 Ives Street Road. Bruce L. Roggie, owner of a Castorland construction firm, said his crew began building the custom house in June and will finish the project this fall. The house is being built for a Watertown couple with a teenage daughter, he said. The couple bought the parcel a few years ago. A man who owns the neighboring lot also has approached Mr. Roggie about building a house there, he said. Houses this far outside the city have underground wells and septic tanks, he said, because they don’t have access to municipal infrastructure.

Mr. Roggie, who pointed to a “property for sale” sign across the street, said he expects the demand for new houses here to continue.

“Most of the houses on these lots out here have been built over the past 10 years,” the 62-year-old said.

Within the city limits on outer Holcomb Street is a four-bedroom modular house bought by Joseph A. Biccum, a 30-year-old Watertown resident. He purchased the house in April from G&I Homes, one of the state’s largest dealers of modular homes. Mr. Biccum and his wife are raising 5- and 6-year-old daughters and a newborn son. They wanted to build a house outside of the downtown area, Mr. Biccum said, and this quiet neighborhood attracted them.

“It’s still like living in the city out here, but being outside it at the same time,” he said.

On outer Gotham Street, Cape Vincent-based construction firm Steven J. Hall Inc. is building two spacious houses for families. Construction of the homes began in early April and should be completed by winter, said Zachary B. Aubertine, a 29-year-old construction worker.

“They liked the location out here,” he said.

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