Silverbrook Estates, a development on Kalispell’s north end, recently sold to a local construction company, highlighting another indicator that the recession is finally loosening its grip on the local economy.
Former owner Alfred Mann sold the 325-acre subdivision to Marvin Galts and Brenda Wilkins, owners of Westcraft Homes in Kalispell, on Oct. 8. The sale marks the culmination of a long journey for the development, which got its start during the heady days of the pre-recession housing boom.
As it stands now, Silverbrook is kind of a brick-and-mortar timeline of the housing industry in the Flathead Valley, before, during, and now after the recession.
Mann started the ambitious project in 2006 when the market was still exploding, but didn’t start selling houses until 2008, when the development’s infrastructure was in place.
It was a difficult time, Howard Mann, Alfred Mann’s son, said.
“I won’t say that it hasn’t been a struggle,” Howard Mann said last week, sitting in the development’s clubhouse. “But we stuck it out.”
Through the heart of the recession, the development was all but dormant, with a few houses going up, but most of the acreage remaining empty. But little by little, Silverbrook kept growing.
As of last week, 85 of the 285 home sites in the developments first phase were sold, and the momentum is increasing. Phase 2 would include 200 additional homes, followed by 90 townhomes and a commercial area that has space for restaurants, shopping, and grocery stores.
It’s a large-scale project, and the development also incorporates amenities, including 4.5 miles of walking trails, river views, a public playground and tennis courts, and the clubhouse, which has a pool and a gym for residents.
But the real draw of the development, Mann said, is its overall feeling, a friendly place where neighbors know each other, where they watch out for each other, where you could trade spare keys with a neighbor just in case.
“We wanted to build a community where everybody here knows everybody,” Mann said.
Howard Mann will stay on board as an advisor through the ownership transition, and said his father chose Galts and Wilkins as buyers because they are local, well known and respected. The elder Mann decided to sell because he wanted to wind down his business affairs, now that he is 90 years old.
Galts and Wilkins said the Silverbrook’s community aspect was the one that attracted them the most when they considered purchasing the development.
“We want to emphasize how thrilled we are to continue the vision that these folks started,” Wilkins said. “Our intention is to continue that.”
Of course, Wilkins and Galts said they were also impressed with the development’s location, just north of the big box store shopping on U.S. Highway 93. Galts said he particularly enjoys the attention to detail that went into planning and building the development, such as the interchange with Highway 93 and Church Drive, built specifically so Silverbrook residents could access the highway safely.
Galts said the other key factor in making Silverbrook a true neighborhood is the price range of the homes, from mid-market properties to high-end riverfront homes.
“Regardless of the price range, we will retain the quality throughout the subdivision,” he said.
And while Galts and Wilkins will build houses through Westcraft Homes, they are always searching for other builders to help fill out the subdivision. He said he expects Phase 1 to last for about four or five more years before they begin the next expansion project.
Silverbrook isn’t alone in its momentum; according to appraiser Jim Kelley, since the beginning of the year, Flathead County saw a 10.5 percent increase in residential sales over the same amount of time last year, and the median price for a home has increased to $235,250 compared to 2014’s $230,000.
Wilkins said they are going to put several new foundations into the ground before the ground freezes this fall in preparation for sales next spring. It’s an optimism that couldn’t be mustered just a few years ago, and one that grows on continued successes.
“We had a good year,” Howard Mann said.
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