BILLINGS - New apartments will soon be built on the property that was home to the old Elks Lodge on Lewis Avenue.
The 220-unit complex has been in the works for more than a year and crews officially broke ground on the project on Thursday.
The complex will have townhouses on a stretch of land, close to Lewis Avenue between 9th Street West and 10th Street West, so it will blend in with the rest of the neighborhood.
A little farther in on the property, they'll have the big apartment complex heading out toward Yellowstone Avenue.
Some have their concerns, but the project is ready to go forward.
Thrive Development out of Salt Lake City celebrated the groundbreaking.
"We're really excited about it," said Jeff Lee, Thrive project manager. "This is a great market."
Lee said his company is building similar complexes, he calls infill projects, in Bozeman, Missoula, Kalispell and even Salt Lake City.
"We feel that it is uniquely positioned to be able to offer residents a lot of access to employment and the great downtown," Lee said about the location in Billings. "And then a lot of a lot of other restaurants and businesses around as well."
The developers say the project will help with the housing shortage and the townhouses along Lewis will conform with zoning, helping to preserve the neighborhood.
"The frontage along Lewis is an N1 zoning which means it can only be two stories maximum," said Jeff Kanning, Collaborative Design Architechts principal. "So we've designed eight duplexes that will go on Lewis Avenue."
Some in the neighborhood are not in agreement with the project, saying snow and rain runoff could be a problem, and the traffic will be much heavier.
"If you've got 200, 250 apartments and you've got two people living in each one, each one has got a car," said Jonathan Peart, who lives nearby. "That's an additional 500 cars."
"Those kids all walk home from Lewis and Clark every day about three o'clock," said Larry Ferro, one of Peart's neighbors.
"The traffic impact really isn't that significant because Lewis is kind of an underutilized collector right now," Kanning said.
Thrive does not have a timeline and part of it will depend on how extensive the mitigation is for demolishing the lodge.
"But the tennis center is going to remain," said Lee. "And it's going to stay up as both an amenity to the residents and then also going to be open to the public."
"We're about to take the impact of this new project," Peart said.
The ceremony also included uprooting a Gingko tree that was donated to the Yellowstone Arboretumat ZooMontana.