Apartment project planned for old hospital site

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The buildings were torn down about three years ago on the former North Valley Hospital site on Highway 93. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

A plan has come forward that could develop the former North Valley Hospital site with 234 apartments.

Riverbank Properties has submitted an application with the Whitefish Planning Department for a proposal to develop the site using a planned unit development overlay on the 11.8 acres. The plan is set to go before the Whitefish Planning Board for a public hearing on Nov. 15.

William A. MacDonald is the applicant listed for the property on U.S. Highway 93 South owned by Mike Goguen. Riverbank Properties is looking to construct seven buildings on the site with 32 to 34 apartment units in each building.

The project, called Riverbank Residences, proposes to develop 90 studio apartments, 90 one-bedroom units and 54 two-bedroom units at the site across from Safeway. About 3.75 acres, or 31 percent of the property is proposed to be as common area open space.

Riverbank Properties is looking to develop the site using a PUD to facilitate density and because residential uses are only allowed in the general business district with an overlay, according to the application. Developers plan to provide 20 percent of the units for affordable housing, which allows for a density bonus of a maximum of 238 units on the site. Without the bonus the site could be developed with 154 units.

Riverbank Properties plans to provide deed-restricted affordable housing for 47 of the 234 units. The apartments will be designated for those with incomes of 60 to 100 percent of the adjusted area median income, and would become restricted and managed by the Whitefish Housing Authority.

“As the project is part of a redevelopment venture that replaces what was an old single-purpose structure that had lived beyond its useful prime with a multifamily housing development aimed at meeting the needs of the workforce demographic,” the developer says. It will also ask the city for tax increment finance funds to help pay for some of infrastructure construction of the proposed Columbia Avenue extension. The amount developers will seek is not specified in the application.

Riverbank Properties plans to extend Columbia Avenue from 13th Street to the north into the site. It also plans to extend 15th Street from the highway into the site from the west. Both streets would be constructed to city standards. However, the right-of-way widths are expected to be wider than typical to allow for sidewalks and a shared-use path, landscape boulevards, street trees and street lights, and developing on-street parking.

Parking spaces in the site are proposed at a total of 321 off-street spaces in addition to on-street parking. The developer is requesting a deviation to provide fewer parking spaces than required for the studio and one-bedroom units. The total required spaces without a deviation would be 374 spaces, so the developer is requesting to provide 53 total fewer spaces than required.

The developer plans to construct and deed to the city a paved trail along the Whitefish River and also create more primitive walking paths along the river. Five parking spaces are proposed near the paved path to facilitate public use of the river trail.

The site plan is designed to preserve the existing character of the site through native vegetation conservation, buffers along the highway, in pockets on the site and in setback areas along the river, according to the application.

Developers say the project makes sense for the site because the multifamily project would provide residents with easy walking or biking access to nearby commercial stores.

The build-out of the site is expected to occur in one to two years, according to the application.

The former hospital building on the site was demolished about three years ago and the site has been vacant ever since.

The Whitefish Planning Board meets at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15 at Whitefish City Hall.

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