Homesteading in Modern Whitefish

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – While Whitefish’s Block 46 project recently hit a roadblock because of downtown height concerns, Paul Johannsen’s other groundbreaking development is well underway.

Johannsen presented both Block 46 and The Homestead at Whitefish to a roomful of real estate agents, developers, planners, economists and a host of others involved in land use at the second annual NewWest.net Real Estate and Development in the Northern Rockies Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn in Missoula. Johannsen, the planning manager for both projects, said he was pleased with progress on The Homestead residential development but expressed frustration over Block 46’s difficulties, which stem from a consulting firm’s recent change of heart over downtown height restrictions in Whitefish.

Crandall Arambula, the consulting firm which helped draft Whitefish’s 2005 downtown plan that allows for four stories, released a new report earlier this month stating that four-story projects should be banned. Johannsen said the sudden reversal diminishes a year’s worth of planning and preparation.

“With this downtown project right now we’re just stepping back and waiting to see what the city wants,” Johansen said. “We’re not going to fight the city on this.”

Block 46’s plan outlines a four-story commercial and residential project taking up a whole city block between Spokane and Kalispell avenues and Second and Third streets. This “mixed-use” project would have more than 100,000 square feet of residential space and at least 40,000 square feet of open and retail/office space. Johannsen said Crandall Arambula’s suggestion of a two-story limit would render these plans impossible.

“If you want density,” Johannsen said, “it’s hard to do with two stories.”

The Homestead, however, is right where Johannsen wants it. The project is a 1,400-acre residential development located 10 miles west of Whitefish just off of Farm to Market Road. Along with 300 open acres, the development is divided into 40 lots, 20 acres each. It has two lakes that will be stocked with native fish species; a trail system that connects with adjacent Flathead National Forest land; five miles of paved area; a lodge that will have a range of amenities including an outdoor dining patio and fitness center; cabins; horse stables; a waterfall park and more. The idea, Johannsen said, is original in that it provides a full-range of community services while letting people have their own 20-acre parcels to do what they want with.

“What we offer here is lifestyle as well,” Johannsen said.

Johannsen said his development team has sold seven lots since they went on sale in 2005, which he is happy with considering the recent lull in the housing market.

“We feel good that we’ve been able to close some deals,” he said.

At the entrance to the development is the Hitching Post, a community building that will eventually be used by Homestead homeowners to conduct meetings and business affairs. The cabins, Johannsen said, will provide a retreat for homeowners where they can take their guests and get out of their own houses. The cabins’ floor plan calls for master suites, rock fireplaces, covered porches and more. All of the community buildings will have high-speed Internet.

“They’re very rustic,” Johannsen said. “They look like they’ve been here for a very long time, but they’re also very modern.”

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