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News >  Idaho

Town houses filling in the gaps

Row houses near Sanders Beach will take advantage of Coeur d’Alene’s new “infill ordinance” – designed to encourage dense housing developments that blend gracefully into older neighborhoods.

The Ice Plant Townhouses will be built on 1.3 acres at 11th Street and Mullan Avenue.

Existing zoning allowed 15 units on the property. By adding details such as front porches and exterior parking, the developers were able to increase the number of units to 24.

“It’s very friendly in a residential neighborhood,” said Dick Stauffer of Miller Stauffer Architects, who designed the project. “It’s got the porches, the fencing, the wood accents – things that are more traditional. What’s different is the lot width.”

The row houses will be slender silhouettes, only 15 to 20 feet wide. Residents will share exterior walls with their neighbors.

The two- and three-bedroom units tentatively are priced from $229,000 to $359,000.

The brick-clad row houses are being developed by David and Susan Schreiber and their son John. Another son, Dan, will market the units. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

The land has been in Susan Schreiber’s family since the 1930s. Prior to refrigeration, an ice plant and coal company operated on the site. Later, the land was developed into a mobile home park.

The family gradually has been buying individual trailers in anticipation of redeveloping the property, David Schreiber said. Fourteen of the 18 mobile homes are owned by the Schreibers and are being rented out. Tenants were notified several months ago that the mobile home park would be closed at the end of the year.

Timing for the development is right on several fronts, according to Schreiber.

Demand for downtown living is high, but most new units are luxury condominiums. Prices often start at $500,000 and exceed $1 million.

Stauffer’s firm developed Mc-Ewen Terrace, one of the luxury condo projects. He has received inquiries from people “who liked the style but couldn’t afford the price tag,” he said.

Passage of the infill ordinance also played a role. Higher densities helped the project pencil out, Stauffer said.

The Coeur d’Alene City Council passed the ordinance last fall. It allows developers to build more units in established neighborhoods when certain design standards are met, said Dave Yadon, city planning director.

Developers are rewarded for preserving alleyways and large trees. Details such as decorative lighting and fencing that create attractive “streetscapes” are encouraged. Chain-link fences are discouraged.

Several infill projects have been proposed, but the Ice Plant row houses are the largest development so far, Yadon said.

The ordinance recognizes that some older homes on the edge of downtown will be replaced with new housing over time, he said. It creates incentives for developers to use “sensitive design” that fits into the neighborhood, Yadon said.

Row houses were popular in big cities before automobiles became middle-class acquisitions, Stauffer said. But the housing faded out of favor with the need for garages. The 11th Street project includes garages in the back but retains features such as pocket yards and high ceilings.

Schreiber envisions the project appealing to a mix of people – professional singles and couples who don’t want to care for large lawns, young families looking for starter homes and older residents interested in downsizing. The three-bedroom units have the option of adding an elevator.

“This is a place you could purchase and stay in,” Stauffer said.

The row houses fall within the city’s urban renewal agency boundaries. Schreiber said he probably will approach the Lake City Development Corp. later for help with some aspects of the funding, such as demolition or decorative streetlamps or fencing.

The Lake City Development Corp., the city’s urban renewal agency, uses tax dollars to encourage redevelopment in blighted areas.

Creating more downtown housing is one of the agency’s goals. “These would be moderately priced residences that we are trying to encourage,” said Tony Berns, the agency’s executive director. “We’re trying to work on all fronts. We also need to get some work-force housing and some low-income housing. … We don’t want to force people out of downtown because they can’t afford to live there.”

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