The Helena City Commission granted a conditional use permit Monday to Rocky Mountain Development Council for 85 housing units in northwest Helena, inching the project closer to a possible groundbreaking in the next few months.
At present, the proposed site of Red Alder Apartments is home only to old utility buildings in a parched grass field at the intersection of Henderson and Brady streets, in the shadow of Ryan Park and Capital High School. Only completion of building plans and the issuing of a building permit remain before construction, which Liz Mogstad, Rocky Mountain Affordable Housing Management Association director, believes will begin in the fall.
Plans for the complex, which would have two entry points off Brady Street, include 40 one-bedroom, 31 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom units aimed at attracting residents who make 50 to 80 percent of area median income. Much of the $18 million development cost Rocky Mountain estimated in November is covered by federal housing tax credits and $2.7 million in grants, including $750,000 from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program through the state Department of Commerce.
Public comments on the project through Monday included three complaints that centered on the potential for increased traffic to Brady and Larson Drive and potential depreciation of nearby properties. A petition from nearby residents submitted in March asked that Larson not be used as an access route for the complex.
An April staff report from planner Hillary Taylor notes that the complex’s Larson access, which is required by the Helena Fire Department, will not be open to residents in response to neighbor concerns. The current plans include a gate separating the complex from the Larson dead end with a lock that could be cut to allow first responder access.
City Development Director Sharon Haugen said Tuesday the city has seen no evidence that "low-income" complexes depreciate nearby properties by themselves, while Mogstad believes the quality of the complex would help area property values go up.
“I would think that this would actually increase values around the area because we’re developing an empty lot and have a lot of amenities and it’s really well-built construction,” Mogstad said.
Mogstad said Rocky Mountain will seek bids for a contractor in late summer.