A ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at The Highline Apartments in Columbia Falls ushered in some much-needed affordable housing in the North Valley.
The project added 72 affordable housing units in the growing area as the Flathead Valley wrestles with a shortage of inexpensive housing options.
“It’s really exciting because there’s such a need,” said Brent Brown, owner of the development. Brown is the chief executive officer of Entrust Property Solutions, the Springfield, Missouri-based company behind The Highline.
The apartment complex offers studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments that rent for $695, $875 and $995 a month, respectively. The first two buildings, which opened in August, are already full.
Brown said he’s excited to provide this opportunity to the community, because “somebody making $12.50 an hour can have their own place. They don’t have to share a house with three of their friends.”
Columbia Falls City Manager Susan Nicosia echoed this sentiment. She described this style of development as “workforce housing,” and said, “if you work full time in your community, you should have a place to live.”
Despite the “workforce housing” description, The Highline advertises “luxury amenities and finishes without the luxury price tag.” These include granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and stacked washers and dryers in the studio and one-bedroom units. The 14-acre, pet-friendly development, located near Perfect Cuts on the city’s east side, also includes a small dog park and plans for a barbecue area, sport courts, a clubhouse and Frisbee golf course.
Nicosia noted the company was “really good to work with.
“They’re professionals. They’ve been in this business,” she said. “They’ve done similar projects in other places, just not here.”
Entrust decided to bring its housing project to Columbia Falls based on Brown’s experience of owning a home in Whitefish. He said he saw the need for mixed-use and multi-family housing at reasonable prices, and “Susan Nicosia was really interested and willing to work with us.
“Municipalities have to partner with developers for it to work,” Brown pointed out. They also partnered with a local architect, engineer and contractor. He said the building process was “extremely smooth” given the weather and the development’s location, although there were delays in opening the second building and providing internet access to the buildings.
Nicosia agreed she felt the project “went as planned” and there were “no issues along the way.”
Brown added, “Everybody seems really excited that we’re here.” Based on this positive reaction, the company has plans to continue developing The Highline into next year.
“We’re starting Phase 2 in the next four weeks,” he said.
Phase 2 will include at least 2 more buildings. The company currently is waiting for the Columbia Falls Planning Board to recommend approval of an additional third building. The company hopes to complete Phase 2 by next spring.
“This is housing that was obviously needed,” Nicosia said. “It’s a real benefit to our community. I’m looking forward to see how it progresses.”
The Highline Apartments are located at 405 Bills Lane.