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Family’s Former Farm Being Converted To Villas In Troy

By Dennis Grubach, Illinois Business Journal

An old family farm in Troy is being converted to senior living villas and now has its first resident.

The project known as Serenade was the subject of open houses in October. The site is going up behind the Walgreen’s store on the south side of Illinois Route 162, with access from both Dorothy Drive and Bradley Smith Drive. The infrastructure is in place for about half the 35-acre development.

Two duplexes are now complete, and each has two villas. Each villa is being sold at a base price of $289,900, said Merrill Ottwein, on whose former family farm the project is being built. He also holds the realty listing. The first unit was sold recently. The contractor and owner of the project is Lynn Sill of Petersburg, Ill.

“The project is customized for people 55-plus living,” Ottwein said. “There are no basements, there is easy entry, flat floors, and most remarkably, concrete walls.”

The Styrofoam-insulated concrete walls are an energy efficient approach that has not been used much in the Metro East area, he said. The duplexes are divided by a common wall, also concrete. The walls are an alternative building process known as ICF (for Insulated Concrete Formed.)

With reinforcing steel added, the process creates a unitized monolithic “sandwich” of concrete, with 2.5 inches of foam on both sides.  Drywall can be directly applied on the inside and all kinds of siding applied directly on the outside.  All openings through the walls, such as windows, doors and utility-ways need to be anticipated.

The walls withstand fires, winds and the elements better than traditional home construction, he said.

The buildings are to be built in clusters that will face each other with a common access courtyard, allowing for people to mix as they wish.

“That’s designed to give people a sense of neighborhood,” Ottwein said.

Some 62 villas are anticipated in all, in both two- and three-bedroom options. The overall floor space is 1,800 square feet in both options.

“The base price per square foot is right at $161 per foot, among the lowest in new homes in the area.  There is a huge list of upgrades included as standard, too, so it appears to be a neat value and a lot of upgraded home for the money,” Ottwein said.

That list is posted on the website,, and available on request.

The project has been in the works for the last few years and Ottwein said part of the delay was simply finding the right builder, one who has worked with the unique concrete wall construction.

“The technique is catching on in churches and schools, by presenting a periphery that’s like a fort,” he said. “The Assembly of God is big on it nationwide. You can’t blow it down, it’s quieter inside.”

And the energy efficiency is fairly remarkable. Ottwein said the structures, when unoccupied, require no energy and save about 60 percent on the traditional power bill, according to manufacturers.

The development is named “Serenade” because of the musical interests of the farm’s owners, represented by Merrill Ottwein and his wife, Grace, and Merrill’s sister, Audrey Deeren.

The old family farm is alongside Tri Township Park.

For more information, people can call Ottwein, who is the listing agent, at (618) 781-1822 or his email at; or contact the builder directly, Lynn Sill, at (217) 801-2516.

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