One of the largest infill apartment complexes in Billings is about to open on Avenue E and 17th Street West.
Billings developer Greg McDonald, who is also president of Wendy’s of Montana, said the first of 32 duplex units are ready and the rest will be done by the end of January.
The development used to have 10 duplexes that were built in 1965, which were purchased by McDonald’s father, Sam McDonald, in the 1970s.
“When he was alive, we talked about what we were going to do with them because they were getting pretty old,” said Greg McDonald of McDonald Land Holdings.
The new two-bedroom townhomes have stainless-steel appliances and other higher-end finishes, extra insulation and central heat and air and attached garages separating the living quarters. The rent is $1,195 per month.
“We’re near the college, the downtown and the medical corridor,” McDonald said. “We’re not way out on the West End.”
Jerry Jones of Jones Brothers Construction is building the Trailhead complex. With so much construction going on around Billings, he said it is tough to find enough skilled
“Two years ago we’d have had framing contractors stacked up out here begging to get a shot at this,” Jones said.
A couple blocks away from the townhouses, Billings’ first mall, West Park Promenade, is being rebuilt and will include Montana’s first Lucky’s Farmers Market, a natural-foods grocery.
Seattle developer Tom Sroufe is planning to build 100 apartments just north of the mall at 17th Street West and Avenue D. Last fall, Sroufe said that 90 percent of the people in Yellowstone County live within three miles of the West Park mall.
But large infill projects inside the city limits remain rare.
A decade ago, Billings developer Matt Brosovich and two unnamed partners built new homes on two blocks of vacant land between avenues E and F and Eighth and Ninth streets west near Highland Elementary School. A previous owner had moved 45 log cabins to the site from an old chrome mine near Nye. Those cabins were hauled away in the 1970s.
The older housing on McDonald’s land was torn down last spring and construction began in June. But the project first had to win special review approval by the Billings City Council in May. Five neighbors objected to the project because of concerns about traffic congestion, loss of privacy and unsafe walking conditions. About half of the residents will access their townhomes through the alley, which was widened to 20 feet, paved and outfitted with speed bumps. McDonald said relationships with the neighbors are good now. He built a vinyl fence along the alley to separate apartment traffic from the neighboring homes.
He also placed an “S” and a “J,” representing the first names of his parents, Sam and Judy, on the exterior Trailhead Townhomes sign.
“It’s kind of a classy way to remember them,” he said.