Workforce housing project to break ground

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  • Mark Panissidi at the Alta Views subdivision in Whitefish on Wednesday afternoon. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    An architectural rendering shows the design of the Alta Views townhomes in Whitefish.

  • Mark Panissidi at the Alta Views subdivision in Whitefish on Wednesday afternoon. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    An architectural rendering shows the design of the Alta Views townhomes in Whitefish.

There’s a lot of buzz about the Alta Views housing project that’s ready to take off in Whitefish, and with good reason.

The townhouse subdivision to be built on the former Par 3 golf course property off JP Road will offer workforce housing and lots of it.

Mark Panissidi, a Whitefish-based developer, has planning approval from the city of Whitefish to develop a 166-lot subdivision. Prices for about 80 percent of the townhomes will start at $289,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath townhome with a two-car garage. Two floor plans will be offered, one with 1,701 square feet and the other a bit smaller at 1,562 square feet.

Construction is on track to begin in late May, with the first 45 to 50 units geared for completion by late fall, said Michael Anderson, a Realtor with National Parks Realty in Whitefish. Anderson and Realtor Jen Dolan, also of National Parks Realty, are the listing agents for Alta Views.

Hammerquist Casalegno is the general contractor and construction manager.

Panissidi, of Del Mar Pacific Group LLC, recently developed the Second Street Lofts in Whitefish and the Flathead River Ranch in the North Fork of the Flathead River. He spent a couple of years working with landscape architect Bruce Boody and architect Ken Huff on a plan that could configure the Alta Views lots to offer housing with a price range within reach for families and professionals such as teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The project involves converting and upgrading the existing 29 condominium units — built in 2007 and known as The Views and Deer Creek — into townhomes, and then building 137 new units around the existing units. Panissidi also plans to upgrade the clubhouse.

Townhome owners own the land upon which their dwelling sits, while condo owners own only the dwelling space.

“This was a trick for lot lines,” Panissidi said. “We took away two units for green space, and the lots are a minimum of 2,000 square feet.

“I had a positive response from the city planners,” he added, explaining that the existing infrastructure is a benefit heading into the project.

What makes these units accessible price-wise to the working class is the mortgage financing for townhomes.

“Condo financing laws are very different for people to qualify,” Panissidi said. Buyers generally need a 30- to 40-percent down payment for condos in Whitefish, but first-time homebuyers may be able to get into an Alta Views townhome with no money down, or 3.5 percent down through the Federal Housing Administration, depending on their financial situation, Anderson said.

“We have a team of lenders at Glacier Bank” who stand ready to assist, Dolan said, though purchasers are welcome to use any lender.

“Townhouses are much easier to finance,” Dolan pointed out.

Monthly mortgages could run in the $1,650 to $1,850 range, Anderson said, adding that rent in Whitefish for such a townhome typically would be higher.

Panissidi and his sales team have been meeting with officials at North Valley Hospital, Glacier Restaurant Group, Whitefish schools and other employers who have workforce housing needs in the city. They’re taking reservations for the townhomes and pre-selling units on the website, AltaViewsWhitefish.com. It’s a process that involves filling out a registration form and getting pre-qualified from a lender.

“We’ve had great response in meeting with employers,” Dolan said. “Mark has jumped through a lot of hoops to get affordable housing.”

The Whitefish Housing Authority has been allotted 10 townhomes under the city’s volunteer inclusionary zoning, according to Housing Authority Director Lori Collins. The units will become part of the housing authority’s deed-restricted housing inventory. The purchase price for deed-restricted units in Alta Views is still being determined, she said.

Collins said the affordable allotment is “a great drop in the bucket” for Whitefish’s housing dilemma.

In general, affordable housing is defined as housing for which the occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of his or her income for gross housing costs, including utilities.

She said Alta Views is the kind of project that will help the city’s housing problem.

“It sounds like a great project,” she said. “I think $289,000 for a townhome is a good price, which will help families.”

Panissidi added, “The whole idea is to get people into housing.”

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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