During the last recession, almost no one was building apartments in Billings. But, over the last three years, construction of rental housing has really taken off.

One of the newest developments is InterPointe, a housing project of 320 apartments edging the western boundary of Billings. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The key local developer, Mike Stock, is building the first 160 apartments and expects to start the second phase soon north of King Avenue West at South 44th Street West.

“The project has been in the works for several years,” Stock said. “I purchased the land two or three years ago from Lenhardt Properties and Jan Rehberg and her brother and sister.”

InterPointe lies along the western edge of St. Vincent Healthcare’s campus at King and Shiloh Road.

Last fall, St. V’s completed a $3.8 million project building basic infrastructure, including power, water and sewer, on about half of the campus. The medical center bought 113 acres a dozen years ago, although there are no immediate construction plans.

“St. Vincent intends to create an array of medical services on Shiloh and King yet to be determined,” said St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation chief executive Dave Irion.

The long-awaited development of the medical campus will be great, Stock said, but it was not a key factor in building the apartment complex.

Instead, he focused on providing housing for a growing workforce for many industries.

“For starters, I believe that Shiloh and King is the epicenter of our whole region, which would be parts of four or five states combined and a 300-plus mile trade area,” he said.

InterPointe’s build-out also isn’t dependent on the booming Bakken in Eastern Montana and western North Dakota, although the oil industry contributes to the growth of Billings, Stock said.

“I feel our economy is steady and it always will be,” he said.

Stock is working with some silent investment partners, who did not disclose the cost of InterPointe.

The development team financed InterPointe primarily through Love Funding Corp. of Washington, D.C., with Stockman Bank as the local lender. The apartments are funded through a federally insured loan program charging market interest rates, Stock said.

Some apartments are put up like hotel rooms with electric baseboards that can generate hefty heating bills during cold months. Stock said he is building higher-end apartments with natural gas heating and sound-proofing.

“Quality is a main concern of ours. That’s just how we build,” he said. “We’re building it for families.”

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InterPointe will have a community center, a wi-fi lounge and a playground for kids.

The rental prices have not yet been set, but the units will be ready by early next year.

This is the largest residential housing project tackled by Mike Stock and one of his companies, Stock Development.

Stock has built some multifamily housing units, but is best known for his two West End retail centers: 24th Street Plaza and South Plaza 24.

Four corners

In less than a decade, Shiloh Crossing at the corner of Shiloh and King has gone from a gravel pit to Billings’ most modern retail mall, now home to more than 40 stores. The Scheels megastore opens Sept. 6 and some of those estimated 300 employees will need housing.

The Montana Sapphire development just west of Shiloh Crossing, which languished for a decade after being subdivided, is finally gaining momentum.

Affinity Living, a 154-unit amenities-filled complex for active seniors, is well underway with a summer opening date. Steak ’n Shake and the Rimrock GMC/Cadillac dealership have opened.

And a ring of apartment buildings is rising up around this half-full Sapphire subdivision.

Billings developer Cal Kunkel is building about 700 apartments in four West End developments.

This spring, the Fresh Life Church will lease about two-thirds of the drum-shaped Kari building that was built on speculation before the recession hit. Kari lies west of the VW dealership along King.

The greatest puzzle in this development matrix is the northeast corner of King and Shiloh, said Billings zoning coordinator Nicole Cromwell.

“Everyone is wondering what will happen there,” she said.

Six undeveloped acres sit in front of the Olympic apartment complex.

Kons Sooper Inc., owns the land and Theresa Jenkins of Billings is one of the Kons stockholders. She said there are no immediate plans to develop the land. Five years ago, she sold nearly a dozen Kwik Way convenience stores that her parents had started.

“The taxes that they are paying on these properties with no development is stunning,” Cromwell said. “It is $7,300 a year on one vacant lot. They have five lots there.”

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Business editor for the Billings Gazette.