BIG SKY — Modular boxes of wood, steel and insulation were stacked one on top of the other and side-by-side, creating the outline of what would be workforce housing.
The nearly $19 million project would provide 24 dormitory-style apartments with 228 beds for workers in Big Sky. Those apartments would be split into four and five bedroom units, with shared living space.
Construction on the Powder Light workforce housing project in Big Sky has inched forward slowly since 2017, when plans for the development were first unveiled. The lack of a turn lane from Lone Mountain Trail into the proposed development stalled development.
Gallatin County officials were concerned that increased flow of traffic caused by the development would create safety issues. The county received a $10.3 million TIGER Grant in 2019 to add turn lanes to spur roads like Lone Mountain Trail.
Road construction by the county has not started yet, however. The project was put to bid by the county earlier this year, but only one bid came back with a higher than expected price, according to an update from Gallatin County in June.
But Lone Mountain Land Company, the developer, and its investment partner CrossHarbor Capital Partners, a Boston-based investment firm, were given the go ahead by the county to build the turn lane in August.
“Our challenges in the development phase of this are examples of how as a community we need to come together if we are going to build affordable workforce housing,” said Matt Kidd, the managing director for CrossHarbor Capital.
The first modular building block was placed on Monday. By the end of Friday, between 40 and 60 building blocks were expected to be added. The modular units were built in Boise, Idaho, and installed by ProSet, a Colorado-based modular building installation contractor.
Bayard Dominick, vice president of planning and development for Lone Mountain Land Company, said that modular units were used because of added efficiency in build time. The modular boxes are built indoors, and can save on cost by protecting materials like drywall from the elements during construction.
Dominick said that delays from snow can be avoided with modular construction. If the development had been built with traditional framing, that first step might not be completed until ski season was over, he said.
“Imagine how much snow removal we would have had to have done during the construction of that over this winter,” Dominick said. “Instead we’ll be done before it snows here.”
The blocks arrive in airtight, white shrink wrap on 18-wheelers.
Each modular block comes fully finished on the inside, with cabinets, doors, paint and other usual on-site work completed. The furniture — stools, beds and couches — is neatly wrapped and secured in each unit before shipping.
Matt Mitchell, founding member of ProSet, said that installing the blocks is a multistep process. The modular units were built while the developers dug the foundation, then shipped to the staging yard near the worksite. Then they’re shuttled from the staging yard to the site and prepped.
From there, the units are hoisted by a crane onto the foundation, or onto another unit, and then fitted with steel straps attached to the foundation.
“On Monday, this was a foundation,” Mitchell said.