Mark Campbell, developer of The Landing at Somers Bay, said he would love to have year-round residents of the Flathead Valley living in his new subdivision.
However, he said with southern exposure lake access on around 400 feet of sandy Flathead Lake beach, chances are good the houses will be snapped up for seasonal vacation homes.
With that in mind, he wanted them to be designed so the owners can “be there when they’re not there.”
“We wanted to make them as easy to open up for the season and close for the season as possible,” he said of the planned smart house features. “With the development of smartphones and apps, there are so many ways to manage the systems within the house — thermostats, closed-circuit TVs, lights, those kinds of things.”
Campbell, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., found the site on which his new 12-home subdivision will sit a few years ago while one of his sons began attending Montana Academy in Marion. The previous developer and the bank financing the project had both gone out of business long before building could begin, so the assets had been transferred out of state.
“I typically don’t invest in land, but in this situation, the subdivision was approved, with the infrastructure and the utilities in,” Campbell said. “It was four acres on the lake with southern exposure and an idyllic setting.”
Campbell said his strategy was to come up with a unique product to complement the scenery. He found what he was looking for in work done by architect Peter Brachvogel of Bainbridge Island, Wash., who has a company called Perfect Little House.
“I loved his designs, they reminded me of traditional lake houses, and I thought the cute little lake houses with their happy colors would be a nice contrast to the lodge-y, wood-oriented houses that are now available in Kalispell,” he said.
The cottage-style homes will vary from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, with separate garages that will have a usable room over the garage space. Though only four homes will be directly on the lake, all 12 will have lake access plus their own boat slips. The eight homes in the four lots to the back will be the smaller units, with two on each lot connected by adjoining roof lines and covered walkways.
Campbell said that going smaller was not what the original developer had in mind for the property, but he didn’t think the market needed more 5,000-square-foot mansion-style lake homes.
“The thought is that people are getting away from bigger houses and don’t need so much space,” Campbell said.
He said the smaller houses also allow him to deliver new construction with unique architecture to the marketplace at competitive price points.
“It’s probably half of what the original developer was thinking in terms of price points,” he said.
Campbell estimates that the eight homes off the water will sell from $699,000 to $999,000, with those on the shore going from $1.2 million to $1.4 million. He said they could easily be premium vacation rentals, so an owner could generate cash flow or help pay for the home by making it available to tourists.
The first home, The Cove, is currently under construction by Paul McElroy of Bigfork-based Montana Build and is expected to be completed this fall. Campbell said he was eager to start building, though the properties aren’t yet listed for sale.
“We want to communicate to the community that the project is alive again,” Campbell said. “This goes back several years, and I can’t tell you how many neighbors came and introduced themselves and said they’re glad to see it going forward.
“A couple of the neighbors even knew of his [Brachvogel’s] work from Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands, so they were delighted we were bringing his architecture to the Flathead,” he said.
All the homes will be Perfect Little House designs, though Campbell said buyers can choose among interior schemes and finish details.
“That they are Perfect Little Houses will be the common element,” he said. “There will be variation to let people do what they want to do.”
Campbell’s only tie to the Flathead has been with his son’s education, but he said he is growing increasingly comfortable and impressed with the area with each visit.
After earning a business degree from the University of Michigan, he started his career in corporate finance with an investment bank in New York City. He then created the Internet site car.com, which he owned from 1996-2004.
“I’ve been an investor ever since and I do love real estate,” he said.
Most of his real estate investments have been in waterfront.
“Waterfront property has always done well for me,” he said. “I’ve been scared to invest in property off the lake. There are so many failed subdivisions.”
The Landing at Somers Bay is located in a gated area off of U.S. 93 just south of the Rack Shack event venue and caterer (formerly Fazooli’s Italian restaurant). For more information, visit www.landingatsomersbay.com.