EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 11, 2014

Home Builders Blitz

Habitat for Humanity transforms empty lot

LAWRENCE — Habitat for Humanity has been responsible for building more than 40 homes in the lower Tower Hill neighborhood of Lawrence, but its latest project on Acton Street is unique. Last Sunday, it was a vacant lot. This Saturday, it will be the site of two brand new homes.

Habitat for Humanity’s Home Builders Blitz is a national event that will produce more than 300 homes across the country in just five days. Husband and wife Susan and Steve Howell, both of whom are on the board of directors of Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity, led a Blitz in 2012 on Market Street. The pair owns Howell Custom Building Group in Lawrence, and Steve Howell heads the team of lead builders for this project.

The lesson he has learned twice over is simple.

“You can’t plan enough. You have your primary plans, and then contingency plans, and then you need a back-up for those plans,” he said.

When there’s a whole building to finish in five days, every step in the construction process is scheduled down to 30 minute increments. Some nights, build crews will work until midnight. About 250 construction professionals have donated their time to the project, along with 125 other volunteers who provide support services like working the food tent and help with smaller construction tasks. Local businesses that have pitched in include Cote & Foster, Steeplechase Builders and McLennan Century 21, all in Methuen, and Marketing Matters LLC in North Andover.

The new building, designed by local architect Andrew Steingiser, contains two townhouses. Each is a three-bedroom home with its own entrance, so that both families can enjoy their own space.

Steve Howell said he and his wife treat the time they spend working on the Habitat house like a vacation week, but rather than taking a trip down to the Cape like some people might, they spend it working to better the community.

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