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New apartment complex proposed for Great Falls

Re-zone for new city apartments sparks discussion.
Great Falls grapples with housing shortage
Posted at 5:40 PM, Mar 07, 2024

In the midst of a pressing housing shortage, some Great Falls residents are finding themselves struggling to find affordable and accessible homes. With demand at an everlasting high and surpassing supply, discussions are underway about addressing this housing deficit.

Jake Clark, the Vice President of the Great Falls Development Alliance, said, “Access to housing in Great Falls at all price points is more difficult than ever before. Even with the exciting developments we've gotten with the Arc Apartments and the Aurora Apartments, and the Milwaukee Station Apartments, and we've seen a lot of growth and traction.”

With an escalating demand for homes surpassing the available inventory in Great Falls, apartment projects have taken center stage recently.

A housing demand assessment was commissioned in 2021 by NeighborWorks and the Great Falls Development Alliance. The study identified a need of around 4,500 units in the Great Falls city area. That need is projected to grow even more, just as development in the city has grown as well.

A zoning commission meeting in February passed a re-zone proposal for a 92-unit apartment complex on Bay Drive for approval or denial from the Great Falls City Commission.

Great Falls grapples with housing shortage

Some community members expressed opposition to the project, citing concerns for traffic and safety.

Here is information from documents submitted to the City of Great Falls:

The subject property, located at 805 2nd Street SW, is approximately 4.46 acres and is currently vacant. The property was most recently a mobile home court. City records show the property has had up to fourteen (14) mobile units, but most recently, it had ten (10) units on record with utility records. This larger acreage, multi-unit property has historically served as a transition between the industrial uses to the north and predominately single-family uses to the south. The subject property is currently within the R-1 Single-family Suburban zoning district. The applicant requests a zoning map amendment to rezone the subject property to M-2 Mixed-use Transitional to allow for the development of a mixed residential project.

The request does not include the single-family residence located at the southeast corner of Bay Drive and 2nd Street SW, addressed 803 2nd Street SW. The applicant’s rezoning request is to facilitate the sale of the property to developers who wish to construct a mixed residential development proposal that includes multiple phases and would result in the construction of 92 units in total. The development proposal includes one three-story 36-unit building in the first phase along the western side of the subject property, one three-story 42-unit building in the second phase in the center of the subject property, and seven 2-unit townhome buildings (14 units) in subsequent phases on the eastern portion of the site, near the Missouri River.

The Director for the city’s Planning and Development department said, “I would hope that people are passionate because we're talking about their neighborhoods. We're talking about their community. Our job as staff is to ensure that our decision makers who are the city commissioners have the very best information possible. So we do our research, which involves public comment that is not only based on what they believe is best, but also what is in our zoning ordinance and what is in our growth policy, which is our comprehensive planning document for what we hope the city will ultimately be.”

The public is encouraged to attend the upcoming commission meeting – which requires and allows public comment regarding the project.