Plans are in the works to tear down the Billings Elks Lodge and possibly build hundreds of new rental units on Lewis Avenue. However, some neighborhood residents aren’t too fond of the idea.
“Traffic is a problem, safety is a problem, construction, who knows how long it would go on,” said longtime resident Jonathan Peart.
A Salt Lake City-based developer called Thrive Development wants to transform the eight-acre Elks Lodge property into more than 200 apartments and townhomes.
“Yes, they are planning on building. What exactly, how exactly... it’ll be housing units. How many, depends on how the zoning is done,” said Jeff Isom, Elks Lodge special representative.
The property is currently zoned as commercial but for apartments to go up, the city would need to change the zoning to multi-family residential.
Peart has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. He agrees that Billings needs more affordable housing, but he’s worried about what a high-density condo will do to the already busy area.
“The basic nature of this neighborhood is going to change because you’re going to pack 400, 600, 300, people in this small area here and it’s going to cause a lot of problems,” Peart said.
Dione Roberts has lived in the neighborhood her entire life.
“I think with those units coming, there would be a lot of changes in our streets. Maybe streetlights would have to be added and that would be at the taxpayer’s expense,” Roberts said.
Both Roberts and Peart are concerned about the number of cars and traffic that the condos would bring.
The Billings Zoning Commission will be meeting on Feb. 1 at the Billings Public Library to discuss the proposed changes. The commission is then charged with making a recommendation on the project to the Billings City Council, which will be take up the matter at its Feb. 22 meeting.
As for the future of the almost 60-year-old Elks Lodge, they will be searching for a new location in Billings.