Building a Cottage Community

By Beacon Staff

BIGFORK – A Canadian development company is building a housing community in Bigfork based on the idea that smaller, cozier homes are attracting post-recession buyers.

Atlas Development Corporation, based in Calgary, is behind the Bigfork Landing developments, which sit between the village and Eagle Bend Golf Course.

Bob McKercher, one of the developers with Atlas, said he and co-developer Bernie Slogotski first saw the property in 2009, and bought it in 2010 with a group of Canadian and American investors.

The initial developer built the infrastructure and landscaped the property before the sale, according to Joyce Mitchell of Mitchell & Associates Real Estate.

Due to the recession, Atlas was able to purchase the property for less than would have been previously possible in Bigfork, McKercher said. That allowed the developers to give each lot more space, because they did not have to push density like they would have had land prices still been high.

The resulting development is designed to be a community of cottages – houses between 1,300 and 2,200 square feet built with high quality material, starting at $285,000. The company is marketing 132 home sites.

“What we’ve chosen to do is design a product for (buyers) that’s smaller, cheaper and easier to maintain,” McKercher said.

Mitchell said she believes the real estate market is moving away from houses with large square footage and more toward those that maximize a smaller space.

“The new trend in housing has been more toward cottages,” Mitchell said. “People are really getting tired of the McMansions.”

Bigfork Landing is also targeted at a specific market, McKercher and Mitchell said: People who are semi- or fully retired, who can spend weeks or months at a time in a different place, or who want an appropriately sized second home.

Bigfork Landing

The open floor plan of a Choteau style cottage.

According to a Feb. 9 entry on the Wall Street Journal’s “Developments” blog, which covers commercial and residential real estate news, this year’s National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show featured smaller home trends for Generation X, Generation Y and Baby Boomers.

The smaller homes are “further proof that builders are ‘right-sizing’ homes, or making them smaller and cozier, partly to keep prices down during a tough economy,” the blog entry stated.

Bigfork Landing is split into two halves to help facilitate this idea, McKercher said. The east development is targeted toward the traditional Bigfork demographic of people who enjoy golf and the culture available in the village, he said.

There are eight possible home plans available, each named after a town in Montana.

The Bigfork Landing West development has smaller lots and the possibility of smaller cabins. The typical cabin would be situated on a small lot and be about 1,000 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

McKercher said the cabins will launch in the spring of 2012 and will be available for under $200,000. The cabin series’ price and location make it an option for those who may not have been able to afford a house like that before, McKercher said.

“We don’t think there’s anything else like that in Bigfork,” he said.

So far, about 30 lots have been sold, McKercher said, and there are eight homes built already.

One of the reasons the development company was attracted to Bigfork is the quality of the local builders, architects, designers and realtors, McKercher said. The group he worked with was “great,” he said.

Since the company is based in Calgary, McKercher said they are taking advantage of Canadian marketing opportunities and pushing Bigfork Landing at various realty showcases. However, McKercher believes Americans are the main buyers.

“We’re expanding the Canadian market here a little bit,” he said. “I still feel the traditional buyer in Bigfork is American.”

Some of those buyers might be full-time Bigfork residents who are searching for a smaller, simpler home and a new community, he said. Mitchell said Bigfork Landing was designed to inspire interaction between neighbors, with porches and paths allowing for conversation.

“The idea is to build a community where you want to be with your neighbors,” McKercher said.

For more information on Bigfork Landing, visit mwww.bigforklanding.co.

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