WHITEFISH – With new subdivisions a norm in Whitefish in recent years, it seems unlikely one would be the first of its kind. But when Whitefish residents call Remax sales associate Scot Blair asking about lots they assume are for condos or townhouses, they’re surprised to learn no one will call this subdivision home.
The 16-acre business park currently under construction on Baker Avenue next to The Wave aquatic and fitness center is making use of a zoning district created in the city’s master plan in 1996, but never used until now. It’s a commercial zone that allows for some light industrial uses and financial institutions and requires a more intensive site plan with landscaping and parking considerations.
“The land itself is a big area, pretty much right in middle of Whitefish,” developer Bill Kahle said. “There really isn’t any land left of this size with commercial zoning to do something like this.” Dave Taylor, Whitefish planning and building director, said he didn’t know of any other large properties zoned for commercial or industrial use close to downtown.
Blair and Kahle said several business owners have expressed interest in the land because their current locations don’t provide enough room for growth. With little space for larger retail space or office buildings downtown, Kahle said the new subdivision would help keep businesses in Whitefish.
“We hear from a lot of small or medium size businesses that started in a garage or small upstairs office downtown, but grow out of that space,” Kahle said. “When they look to expand they can’t find space in Whitefish and move to Kalispell.”
The lot was previously a gravel pit owned by the city. The city swapped the front portion of the lot with Park Side Federal Credit Union for its downtown location with plans to use that land as the future site of City Hall. The city also retained a large portion of the southern edge of the lot for expanded fire and police facilities.
The rest of the property was sold to Kahle’s group, Whitefish Infill Partners, and divided into seven lots, currently for sale; an expanded parking lot for The Wave; and a large lot the developers may keep to build an office building with smaller office suites. The group will be having an open house at the site on Oct. 26 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The business park will be connected to the northwest to a 37-lot residential subdivision called O’Brien Bluffs, also a project of the Whitefish Infill Partners.
“If we want to be more than just a resort town with only service industries, we have to have opportunities and spaces to keep companies. I think this provides needed space,” Kahle said.
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