Story Mill housing project site

A parcel along Bridger Canyon Drive that was once home to part of the Bridger View Trailer Court sits adjacent to the under-construction Story Mill Park. The land, owned by the Trust for Public Lands, could be used for a mixed-income housing development. 

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Plans are afoot to develop a mixed-income housing development on 8 acres formerly occupied by a portion of the Bridger View Trailer Court, but progress on the project has been slow.

Maddy Pope, a project manager with the Trust for Public Lands, said the organization’s plan is to develop the northeast Bozeman parcel into a “model neighborhood” that would include affordable housing units as well as market-rate properties.

The land is currently owned by TPL. It is southwest of Story Mill Road and Bridger Canyon Drive and adjacent to 55 acres being developed by TPL and the city as Story Mill Park.

“We want to incorporate standards of design and sustainability,” Pope said. “It has to be a neighborhood that would fit, aesthetically, with the park and other uses.”

The effort, however, has hit at least one hurdle already.

Jeff Rupp, president of Bozeman’s Human Resource Development Council, told city commissioners last week that HRDC had been considering sponsoring a project on a portion of the Story Mill property but that negotiations had fallen through.

“The Trust for Public Land has rejected our offer,” he told commissioners. He said that means HRDC won’t have a proposal ready this year to compete for affordable housing funds through the state-administered community development block grant program.

He also asked commissioners to make protecting the city’s mobile home parks a priority.

Rupp declined to elaborate on his comments about the project after the meeting, referring a reporter to TPL. He didn’t return a call inviting additional comment Tuesday.

“We’re continuing to talk with HRDC as well as other public and private partners,” Pope said this week.

“We just didn’t feel that we had enough information to move forward at this time,” she said, adding that affordable housing projects are “tough to do” properly.

For example, she said, one of the project’s goals is to provide “permanent affordability” for its below-market housing units, something that will probably require the involvement of a partner nonprofit or other entity able to manage affordable units as they transition from family to family instead of being sold on the open market.

Additionally, Pope said, they want the project to be set up so it can be a model for other housing efforts.

“It’s an ambitious thing to do,” Pope said. “We consider it very important.”

The Story Mill and Bridger View trailer park sites have had a turbulent history over the past decade.

In 2006, Matthew Crocker, son of former Yellowstone Club owner Edra Blixseth, announced ambitious plans to build a neighborhood containing 1,200 homes and 140,000 square feet of shopping, restaurants and other commercial space on the property.

However, following the 2008 housing crash, Crocker was forced to declare bankruptcy amid foreclosure proceedings. By that point, 92 families living in the Bridger View Trailer Court had been forced out of their homes.

TPL, a national conservation nonprofit with offices in Bozeman, announced in 2012 it was purchasing the bulk of the property with plans to ultimately sell it to the city, which had just passed a $15 million parks and trails bond. City commissioners approved the purchase of 55 acres of land for the park from TPL last December.

Pope said she’s hoping they can usher the housing project through the “due diligence phase” to develop a solid proposal in the next six months to a year. The park project, she said previously, is aiming for a 2017 opening date.

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Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or edietrich@dailychronicle.com. He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.

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