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Modular 'house drop' in New London attracts onlookers

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New London — Standing curbside on Gardner Avenue on Thursday, Gales Ferry couple Alan Panas and Nicole Kolosko watched the massive crane hoist and swing another piece of their home into its resting spot.

This particular piece, Panas pointed out, was the second-floor bonus room of the 2,700-square-foot custom built home and one of the final pieces set down onto the foundation before work crews started assembly of the pre-built sections of the garage.

The so-called “house drop” at 145 Gardner Ave. was an unusual sight that brought neighbors to their front yards with cell phone cameras to record the action. Mayor Michael Passero even stopped in for a photo with the new homeowners — abiding by social-distancing protocols and posing at arm’s length.

It took just a few hours before crews from Westchester Modular Homes had the flatbeds emptied and work started on erecting the roof, which unfolded along a series of hinges

“It was amazing how quick it came up,” Panas said.

Modular homes are unusual anywhere in southeastern Connecticut, said David Preka, president and chief operating officer of Advanced Group LLC, and the partnership with Westchester Modular was something new for his company.

In this case, Preka said, it made sense.

Preka’s company was working to design a home for Panas and Kolosko. The initial idea was a regular stick built home but when the designs came back,  the cost to build it was not in line with the estimated appraisal — about $200,000 more.

The property, which was part of the estate next door at 129 Gardner Ave., was at one point in foreclosure and subdivided by the new owner. Panas and Kolosko were driving in the area and exploring potential building sites when they saw the “for sale” sign standing in a break in the stone wall that borders the property. In 2014, they bought the three lots that now comprise the site of their new home.

Preka presented alternatives to help save on some costs and the couple looked over the online catalog of Westchester Module Homes, eventually taking an in-person tour of the company’s indoor construction facility in New York. The homes are built in climate and quality controlled environment with everything from electrical to bathroom fixtures installed and ready to be connected before shipment.

Panas and Kolosko chose the craftsman-style home and worked with the company to customize it, shifting walls and trading a bathroom for a larger closet among other changes. They also picked out many, but not all, of the fixtures ahead of time. The kitchen sink, Panas joked, was one of those items they were a bit more picky about.

The total cost was roughly $500,000 but it was what Preka called a “price conscious” option that fits the needs of the couple, whose twin boys also watched some of they action on Thursday.

Kolosko said some of the costs involved the permitting process and alterations to the site because of a high water table.

Preka said he was impressed by the quality of the home.

“They’re a really solid product,” Preka said. “We at Advanced Group are incredibly excited to be bringing this technology to our region. Modular homes are an efficient and revolutionary new tool for home buyers, and we have partnered with some of the best in the business to bring this technology to our clients.”

While Preka said his company will continue work on stick built homes, the new partnership brings with it the possibility of more turnkey homes in the area.

“Advanced Group has certainly done their homework,” said John Colucci, vice president of sales and marketing for Westchester Modular Homes, in a statement.

The company's website says it built more than 7,400 homes.

“Their staff and clients will enjoy the many benefits our team will offer as we build their new homes indoors at our employee-owned production facility," Colucci said.

Panas said it will still be a few months of work before they can move in but is happy with the choice. He said Westchester plans to use their home as one of the models featured on its website.

g.smith@theday.com

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