Rockcress Commons gets initial okay in city development process

A proposed 124-unit apartment complex is moving forward within the city development process.

Rockcress Commons, a NeighborWorks Great Falls project, has also been going through the county process since the property is currently in the county and the parcels were being divided so that only the parcels needed for this project would be annexed.

The proposed complex is located on the southern end of the city at the dead-end of 23rd Street South and along the northern side of 24th Avenue South.

NWGF is, however, considering purchasing and developing adjacent parcels in the future.

Cascade County Commissioners approved the subdivision on Oct. 10.

124-apartment complex makes another step toward construction

On Tuesday, the city Planning Advisory Board/Zoning Commission voted to recommend that the City Commission approve the annexation, zoning and preliminary plat for the project.

The complex is workforce housing and will have 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units.

The project began development last year and was one of five projects selected out of 19 applications from the Montana Board of Housing. It will be the first in Montana to use a unique blend of 9 percent and 4 percent tax credits, said Neil Fortier, NWGF director of real estate development.

Rentals will have income restrictions and families and individuals below 60 percent of area median income would be eligible for what’s considered workforce housing.

The 10-acre complex will have apartments with these approximate rental rates:

  • One bedroom: $381-$607
  • Two bedroom: $593-$729
  • Three bedroom: $834

The development will include extending 23rd Street South to 24th Avenue South and 23rd Avenue South will be extended as well as 22nd Street South.

The adjacent property is available for development and whoever purchases it will continue 23rd Street South and 21st Street South.

Because of the project’s location, there are some concerns with storm water and city staff said NWGF will be required to use higher engineering standards to disperse the water. Dave Dobbs, city engineer, said his team is working closely with the developer’s team, including those at TD&H, to find creative solutions to the issue.

City staff also has some concerns with connectivity since the Great Falls Transit District does not currently provide service to that area of town and it’s outside the transit district boundary. But the developer is putting in a bus shelter, or at least the concrete pad for a future shelter, on the site in anticipation of bus service in the area as growth continues.

Great Falls Fire Rescue expressed some concern that they wouldn’t be able to reach the proposed apartment complex within their goal of 4-minute response times.

The PAB voted to approve a Planned Unit Development zoning for the project since there are some differences in the project due to requirements of the tax credits. The project also requires a separate annexation agreements for each of the types of tax credits.

Staff and the developer are still working through plans for utilities and other details, but they will be spelled out in the annexation agreements that would go before the City Commission.

If the commission approved the annexation, zoning and preliminary plat, the project will go back to PAB for a final plat approval and before construction can start, it will be reviewed by the city’s Design Review Board.

The PAB voted 8-0 for annexation, zoning and the preliminary plat.